Appsolutely high tech: Teachers at magnet program prepare

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Ben Hillyer/The Natchez Democrat — Reflected in the first of a line of iPads, Apple professional development specialist Matt Lanzoff helps Concordia Parish Academy of Math, Science and Technology third-grade teacher Amber Nugent understand how to work with maps and other apps on the electronic tablet.

VIDALIA — The Concordia Parish Academy of Math, Science and Technology teaching staff put their fingers to training Monday, pinching, zooming and tapping their way to learning how to operate the iPads they will use as teaching instruments in the classroom.

A training course hosted by an Apple employee, Matt Lanzoff of Ohio, taught the 10-person teaching and administrative staff of the magnet program how to maneuver the applications they will be using.

The magnet program ordered 100 iPads for the 120 kindergarten through fifth-grade students that will christen the program this year, which is housed in the old Ridgecrest School site.

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While all students will use the iPads throughout the school year through either a mobile classroom cart or specific lesson plans, fifth-grade students will be designated their own tablet that they keep for the entire year.

First-grade teacher Angela Cotton learns how to use the photo features of the iPad for her classroom.

Director Nancy Anders said the tablets are the perfect way to keep students interested and learning subjects through a medium with which they are already familiar.

“There’s such a high engagement with these students, and the tablets are kind of addicting,” Anders said. “Even if it’s learning, they don’t realize it.”

Applications like Apple’s office suite, iWork, which includes word processor, slide show presentation and spreadsheet application, will be used to allow students to create different material based on lesson plan data.

First-grade teacher Angela Cotten said she used the training session to relate her previous knowledge of the iPad to how she can use it in the classroom.

“These apps are very simple, and they’re great because the kids can grab it, animate it and just go with it,” Cotten said. “As we start going, what we can use them for will become clearer, and we’ll really start getting more involved.”

The iPads will also be equipped with Discovery Education Techbooks that will replace hardcover textbooks for certain subjects.

“We’re still going to be teaching all the core subjects, but we’ll start incorporating the iPads with the lesson plans,” Anders said. “One of the goals is to go paperless, but they still need to learn how to write.”

Kindergarten teacher Kate Neal said the tablets will be a great supplemental tool she can use to teach all subjects.

“I think it’s going to be wonderful for all subjects, not just one or two,” Neal said. “I’m just ready to jump in with both feet and start using them in the classroom.”

Aside from the six-hour training session on Monday, the teachers were also given their own iPads at the beginning of the summer to familiarize themselves with the tablets.

Third-grade teacher Shannon Cooley said she used the summer to determine which apps were useful to her teaching methods.

“I just played around with the different apps and found the ones that have meaning in the classroom,” Cooley said. “Some of the shortcuts I learned (Monday) make everything a lot easier.”

And with each classroom equipped with a projector, smart board and document scanner, the iPads can easily be hooked up to project content for teachers to work along with the students, Anders said.

A meet and greet to showcase some of the school’s technological teaching methods for parents and the public will be from 4 p.m. to 6 p.m. today at the school.