By Trent Moore
The Cullman Times
It may not have all the glass facades and industrial design cues, but your average Cullman City Schools classroom is starting to look a lot like an Apple Store these days.
With a 1:1 laptop initiative already in full implementation, the district is now piloting an Apple iPad program at several campuses to test the effectiveness of tablets in day-to-day classroom use.
The system purchased the equipment with a 50/50 $100,000 Appalachian Regional Commission (ARC) grant, matched with $100,000 in local funds.
Cullman High geometry teacher Janice Burrows spent Tuesday experimenting with a classroom set of iPad 2s, and said she believes they’ll be a great addition to her curriculum this year.
“We’re just starting up our last nine weeks, so this is a great time to transition,” Burrows said. “We’ll be doing a lot of visual aids and project-based activities. It’s a great tool to increase engagement and present their work in a new way.”
Systemwide technology director Nathan Anderson said classrooms were chosen at every school to host a full compliment of tablets to track and study usage data over the next year.
“We’ve used iPads in select situations, but this is definitely the first time we’ve tried it on a larger scale,” he said. “In other places it has proven to be a success in the classroom and we just want to see how it works here. We want to distribute a full set to assigned teachers and track everything from usage to student engagement.”
Aimee Bates, the system’s technology integration specialist, has made a career out of studying tech trends and how they relate to the classroom. Bates said the smaller size and versatility of tablets make them an ideal device for use in the school setting.
“You want to give students the most updated resources you can, and I really like the weight and size of a tablet compared to a laptop in some instances,” she said. “When you’re using a laptop, you can get so caught up in writing a paper or making a spreadsheet, and you lose some of that creative spirit. When you put an iPad in someone’s hands it can bring back some of that creativity.”
City schools superintendent Dr. Jan Harris noted technology is always evolving, adding the system is trying to keep up with the latest trends to better equip students for future careers and college studies.
“Technology integration is a fluid process, so we have to constantly be growing and changing as new technology becomes available,” Harris said.
The technology department will continue to monitor usage data, and a larger roll out could eventually develop in the coming years.
Trent Moore can be reached by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org, or by telephone at 734-2131, ext. 220.