On Special Assignment

May 3, 2013 11:30 AM by Dennis Bragg - KPAX News

iPads changing the face of education in Western MT

MISSOULA - Montana teachers say it's "exciting" to watch their students' accelerated learning as more iPads and other electronic devices arrive in classrooms.

But is there a risk these tech-savvy kids might outrun the schools? Reporter Dennis Bragg went on Special Assignment to find out.

We headed over to Paxson Elementary School, where several classes, including kindergarten, are discovering how quickly children adapt

"Four of my kids came in, having an iPad at home. At this point in the year, and really only a month into it, there was no difference. Having it in their hand daily, they catch up, they teach each other. It just happens for them," teacher Julie Line told us.

"They're able to differentiate on their own, so they can take their learning as far as they want to go. And if they need some extra time on a certain concept, or to work on a skill, they can take that time," added Paxson Elementary School Principal Kelly Chumrau.

"Well they help you when you don't want to go through a huge textbook and you can just go right away and find what you're looking for," explained Maddie Henley, a seventh grade teacher at Bigfork Middle School.

"You can see a lot of different stuff that you wouldn't notice if you were looking at a classroom model," said Jimmy Abney, a fifth grade student at Bigfork Elementary School.

"So, it's able to just take something that I might need to present in a text book way, but I can open it up in a whole new dimension by having access to the computers or the iPads," added Bigfork Elementary School fifth grade teacher Julie Bonner.

We also observed faster feedback for students. In one class, the teacher could see each student's results as soon as they were done, giving immediate advice and answering questions. We also learned that few of the students don't have their own devices.

"It is kind of a rarity, and I find the ones that don't have it at home are so eager to delve into it that they're ready to learn. They're already ready to learn how to use it. So, really I don't see it as a major speed bump," Bigfork High School teacher Sam Tudor observed.

There is a dark side however, with a recent study done in the United Kingdom showing that some parents are letting children use devices up to four hours or more each day, creating addictive behavior.

But the teachers we talked with say that like any technology, it's all about parents supervising and balancing time and exploration

"In fact we encourage, the more use the better. And all their doing is becoming more familiar with the tool. And the same is true for keyboarding or learning anything about the machine that you're using. The more you can learn to manipulate that tool the more you will spend your time and energy learning," Bigfork Elementary School teacher Matt Jensen said.

"That play time, that outside being with friends, riding bikes, exercise, we've got to keep the balance for sure," Chumrau added.

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