The Fruitland School District has started a pilot program for teachers to purchase technology for their classrooms.

“Technology has become the focal point in education,” Fruitland Superintendent Teresa Fabricius said.

“We want the students to have all the tools possible to help them in their education. We want them to be prepared for whatever they’ll need after high school. Unfortunately, technology is very expensive and hard to keep up to date.”

Fabricius said she knows technology is important and she’d love to provide all of the students with their own laptops, but that’s not feasible. Instead, this grant program allows teachers to try something new and provide students with a different opportunity.

The school district came up with the idea of having the teachers interested in implementing technology in their classrooms fill out applications about how that technology would benefit students.

A committee looks over the applications. Committee members have a list of items that must be met, including innovation, impact on students and measurable impact on student achievement.

If their applications are approved, teachers will be awarded a small grant to get the technology. They must keep records of what is successful and not successful. At the end of the year, teachers present the process to their peers.

“It’s an opportunity to see how it works,” Fabricius said. “In my opinion, a pilot is worth it, whether it works or not.”

Some devices include laptops, video equipment and student response tools, Fabricius said.

The grant program won’t give every student a laptop, but the district is hopeful the technology will keep students engaged.

The Fruitland School District also was able to award two classrooms in the school district a complete set of iPads for the students’ use. This was paid for by a partnership with the local business community, led by Henggeler Packing Co. in Fruitland, which helped supply the funds necessary to get the iPads.

The same process was used with the grant program to secure the tablets. Teachers had to apply for the technology, and the list of requirements was checked to see if the teachers and plans met the criteria. 

Gina Ziegler’s third-grade class was one of two selected to receive the iPads. The class is creating presentations on planets, and they’re putting them together using their iPads.

“The engagement I’ve seen with the iPads is amazing,” Ziegler said. “They want to use them.”

Zielger has several apps that she has downloaded on the iPads for her students to use that deal with fractions and that help them out with math problems. She also has downloaded apps for science and reading.

“This opens up a world of learning to them,” Ziegler said. “I’d want every teacher to use these. … We’re at the tip of the iceberg in teaching with this technology.”

Dawn Huff, who teaches math at the high school, was the other teacher whose classroom who received the iPads.

She said the students are able to work out a math problem on the iPads and know immediately if they do something wrong.

Huff is able to see the activity level on each iPad to see if a student may be struggling with a problem or is off task. She can also see when the activity level has slowed so she can move on with the lecture.

“When you have a full classroom, you don’t have the time to check on everyone,” Huff said.

She is better able to see if students are struggling because of the iPads and check on them, especially when they are less inclined to raise their hands and ask for help.

Huff also was able to download a program to block the students from using any app other than what they should be using.

Huff records her lectures and posts them on YouTube for the students to look at after class. If they’re taking notes and miss a portion of the lecture because they’re still writing, or if they miss a class, then they can go on the Internet and watch the lecture.

“Different learners learn different ways,” Huff said.

She has partnered with the other math teachers at the high school who also post their lectures on YouTube for the students.

“Especially now with Common Core coming up, the students in my class can go to another teacher’s website and see how they teach the same lesson,” Huff said.

The students can learn the same thing 10 different ways and maybe they understand the concept better from a different teacher, Huff said.

Russ Wright applied for a grant with Chad Arnzen, both science teachers at the high school, to get laptops for their class. However, the funds necessary to get a classroom set were more than the grant money supplied by the school district, so Wright and Arnzen applied and received Idaho CapEd grants, a local credit union offering grants for teachers, to pay for the rest.

Wright’s biology students are currently learning about genetic disorders and are putting together a presentation that they can send to Wright for comments.

Wright also offers reviews for the tests and practice tests to students, who can take the tests over and over again until test time. The students take the tests, and if they do not meet the percentage to pass, they can retake the test until they pass. They find out their scores immediately.

This is much better than taking out a textbook and having students read the lesson on the pages, Wright said. They are engaged and enjoy using the technology.

The school district will be conducting a survey given to students, parents and teachers about their technology experience, whether they have a computer at home, etc.

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