State school leaders see how iPads, laptops enhance classrooms

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, May 2, 2012

By Sarah Campbell
CHINA GROVE — Fourth-grader Caroline Welch barely looked up from her iPad as more than a dozen school leaders from districts across the state roamed throughout her classroom Tuesday at Enochville Elementary School.
“The kids are still completely engaged,” said Eric Taylor, a math teacher from Burke County’s Robert L. Patton High School. “They know what they’re doing, they know what’s expected, and we haven’t bothered them at all.”
Caroline said she’d rather use an iPad to do math problems or complete writing assignments because “it’s a lot easier and takes less time.”
Students and teachers in 21st century classrooms at Enochville, Overton Elementary and Carson High gave visitors an inside look Tuesday at how technology enhances class on a daily basis.
Phil Hardin, executive director of technology for the Rowan-Salisbury School System, said the district hosts the Technology Tour Day at least once a year.
“It is in part a showcase opportunity for the students and teachers to show how they are using the technology the district has given them, but you also see the engagement between our staff and the visitors,” he said. “It’s an interchange of ideas, so while they may come away from the visit here with ideas, it’s an opportunity for us to engage with them and get ideas that we can possibly use in the future.”
The 21st century classrooms are equipped with interactive whiteboards, iPods, laptops and document cameras.
Hardin said the district purchased iPads for 12 of those classrooms in February. Teachers were selected based on application.
“They had to apply in a way that was creative and a way that demonstrated what they were currently doing with technology … and explain how students would benefit from having iPads in their classroom,” he said.
Amy Pruitt said having the technology in her fifth-grade classroom has empowered her students.
“They need less of me,” she said. “They need me as their guide, but they teach each other.”
Lydia Locklear, a media and technology coordinator from Lumberton Senior High School in Robeson County, said she was surprised to see the amount of collaboration created by the use of technology.
“There were a lot of students working together and a lot of interaction with students and their content,” she said. “I’d like to take that with us and introduce it at our school.”
Locklear said her school is considering the launch of a one-to-one laptop program during the upcoming year.
“We’re trying to find ways to implement it with our students and teachers,” she said.
Loistine DeFreece, a school board member from Robeson County, said she wanted to see what Rowan County was doing in terms of technology.
Rowan-Salisbury was recently ranked among the top 10 school districts in the United States for technology by the Center for Digital Education in California. The honor is given to districts that use technology to govern, improve operations and communicate with students, parents and the community.
“I’m impressed with what the students are doing, as well as the teachers,” DeFreece said. “I noticed that professional development is the key to the technology.”
Christie Abernathy, assistant principal of Patton High, said she was interested in the school system’s use of mobile devices.
“We’re part of the IMPACT (Technology) grant so we’re exploring what kind of changes we need to bring into our school and our district,” she said. “We’ve actually purchased some iPads and some mobile laptops, so that sparked my interest in wanting to know what other schools are doing with mobile devices in the classroom.”
Abernathy said talking with Rowan-Salisbury staff gave her some ideas about how to utilize applications like Keynote, a presentation software, and iMovie, a video editing system.
“There are several things that we’ve made notes of to hopefully take back,” she said.
Penny Jenkins, a social studies teacher at Patton High, said she was intrigued by the district’s activity bus equipped with a wireless router.
“The first thing that caught my attention this morning was the bus having wireless capabilities,” she said. “That’s a fabulous idea, so that students can do homework when traveling to and from games or interact during field trips.”
Locklear said the level of student engagement impressed her.
“They were on task; you didn’t see them sitting around daydreaming,” she said. “They were engaged and actively involved in their learning.”
Contact reporter Sarah Campbell at 704-797-7683.