PTA President’s Update: Ipads in the Classroom

PTA President Mindy Holliday met with Bend-La Pine Schools to advocate for Three Rivers Students and get some answers on the use of iPads in the classroom.
Dear Three Rivers School parents and guardians,

Recently, I had a meeting with Skip Offenhauser, Executive Director of Teaching and Learning at Bend-La Pine School District, and Three Rivers School Principal Tim Broadbent about growing concerns I have been hearing about the use of iPads in the classroom. I found our meeting to be incredibly insightful and wanted to share what I learned, as well as various resources with more information.

Background:
The district began the digital conversion 6 years ago, with the primary motive being that everyone having equitable resources. Every student would have the same opportunity by being given the same device to enhance their learning experience. In addition, because information is digital, access to curriculum changes is much easier for digital books. Instead of ordering a whole new hard copy book; they can just download the latest updates. There were other advantages that were explained to me for the change to digital textbooks, such as being able to easily switch to Spanish mode for students in the district that may have a language barrier, being able to highlight text and clicking the “read to me” function for struggling readers, having additional resources one click away, etc. With that being said, Mr. Offenhauser also stated that sometimes hard copy textbooks are still the best option. His goal is to just choose whichever is best, either digital or not. That he takes the best from both worlds, and doesn’t have a preference. From a teacher workload standpoint, I also learned that when doing assessment, it is automatic versus teachers spending an hour or two at home each night grading. For example, if there is a lesson coming up on whales and the teacher wants to know what the students already have learned, they can push questions out to the student’s iPads and instantly see graphs and charts to assess where students are to adjust the lesson planning.  Discussion during the meeting:Even with them expressing the advantages to using technology in the classroom, I wanted to still share the many concerns I have been hearing from parents. This includes, “it takes longer for my kid to type up his homework than just print it,” “I’m worried about her grammar, spelling, and penmanship,” “my child just does voice to talk to “write” their papers,” “I don’t like that the iPad is home every day”, and it goes on and on.  Mr. Offenhauser and Principal Broadbent were both very interested to hear this feedback and are open to any ways to make things better for our students. They said that their main goal is just to give students access to the best resources for learning, no matter what format it comes in. They both stated that:The iPads are just a tool to help the teachers and kids learn, it isn’t the end all be all.When the iPads are home, it is the parents rules of how and if they are used. If parents have ideas of how things could be more efficient, please share!If there are any concerns or frustrations, please talk to your teacher to see if there is a better way of learning that could work for your studentThat online access is never necessary at home to do assignments. Students can work on it at home on their iPad, and when they get to school it will automatically upload once connected to the school’s wifi. In response to the idea of removing iPads from classrooms:When it comes to moving away from the use of iPads to strictly textbooks, this is most likely not feasible. The District’s goal is to find the best curriculum possible, and that is found through a balance of hard copy books/formats and technology. Takeaways for parents & guardians:If you have any concerns about the use of the iPad in the classroom, PLEASE discuss this with your teachers this week at Parent Teacher Conferences. Ask them questions, share your concerns, etc. I cannot stress this point enough. If something isn’t working, talk to your teachers. If you have more efficient ideas of assignments, etc., talk to your teachers. If you have a frustration about how the child is using the iPad at home, talk to your teachers. They are there to help, and with conferences coming up, you have a prime opportunity to bring up this topic.Mr. Offenhauser and his staff are looking at scheduling “Parent 101” nights, where they are able to show how the iPads are used in the classroom, the benefits and advantages, various tricks and tools that help students and support ideas being learned in the classroom, etc. I have requested they host one at Three Rivers School, so please look for more information to come on that in the near future.Mr. Offenhauser shared with me some useful resources, which are attached, that have great information. My goal as PTA President this year is to work with Bend-La Pine School District officials on topics that impact all students, and the use of technology in the classroom is definitely on the list. Hopefully this email, along with talking to your teachers, will help ease some concerns and answer questions about the use of iPads in the classroom. As a side note, the other topic I am working on is school safety, and I have a meeting coming up soon with the District Director of Safety and Communication and Principal Broadbent. I will be sending out an email to all of you after that meeting as well, with a recap and information. Thank you for being a part of the Three Rivers School PTA, and let me know if you have any questions. Mindy HollidayOtter Mom and PTA PresidentResources on iPads: Bend-La Pine Schools – technology in our schools pageBLP Schools  – iPad FAQBLP Schools – digital citizenshipCommon Sense MediaTeaching Digital Citizens in Today’s WorldBLS Instructional Technology BlogThe Parent’s Guide to Educational TechnologyResearch and Recommendations on Screen Time by Matt J. Fuller, EdD

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