Tablets in the classroom

Ty Dunham
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Iron Ore Company of Canada donates 60 iPads to Labrador school

No more pencils, no more books, and no more teachers in Labrador West wondering how to keep their students engaged in the classroom.  

J.R. Smallwood Middle School Grade 7 students, from left, Kate Callahan, Felicity Stead, Colin Maddox and Justin Tetford play a dice game as they work out math equations and double-check the results on the school’s new iPads, donated by IOC.

The Iron Ore Company of Canada (IOC) donated $40,000 to supply 60 tablet computers for J.R. Smallwood Middle School students to learn interactively. The iPads are made by Apple Inc. 

The students have a number of apps at their disposal for a variety of classes, such as learning fractions with pies in math class. Students can work out their answers and scan a Quick Response (QR) code similar to a barcode to check their answers or share their discoveries with the class on the Smart Board. Educational games may also be available to students at the teacher’s discretion. 

Grade 7 student Nick Travers is no stranger to technology, already familiar with his own iPad at home. But that doesn’t mean they will be boring at school.  

“I like to use them for school activities, it’s very special. (You can) do more stuff on them and it helps people want to learn so they use them more.” 

Classmate Kinsley Cormier agreed. 

“It makes things easier. It’s sometimes fun, depending on what we use them for. When we use them for music and stuff it’s fun, and it makes math easier and fun.” 

 

An important resource 

Students aren’t the only benefactors. Grade 7 teacher Kathleen Parker said the iPads help her keep the students focused.  

“I’m one person, I have 17 people in the room that I have to take care of. The iPads are like having another teacher in the room with me. If there’s not an answer that I can give them right away they can search for it and have instant feedback with the QR codes.

“It’s helpful on a number of levels,” she said. 

Providing the students with the latest technology is a natural step, she said.  

“This is their medium. Technology is second nature to them; they use it in their social lives and for entertainment. And it makes sense to integrate it into the classroom because they’re going to be more engaged with it. If they’re more engaged in their lessons they’re comprehending better.” 

Students who miss a class can easily catch up on the work, keeping them from falling behind the rest of the class.  

“If a child misses a presentation I can upload it onto the website so things like notes or a presentation can be looked at.” 

Parker said the students are used to the instant feedback the iPads provide, and it’s making her job more effective.  

“There’s no behavioral problems because they want to be working with them, they love the opportunities to use it.” 

 

Technology here to stay 

Addressing the concerns of students spending too much time in front of media screens, IOC’s director of external relations, Heather Bruce-Veitch, said the company has invested in a variety of projects, balancing the needs of students.  

“At one of the schools we did a green space and that’s recognizing healthy activity outdoors. This time it’s recognizing healthy activity with the use of technology.” 

Bruce-Veitch said there’s no denying the continuing increase of technology, and students need to be prepared for it. 

“We believe investing in the community, particularly in the field of education, means we’re creating stronger students, and that makes for better citizens in Labrador West and better employees.” 

The students may even learn without realizing the work they’re putting into it, she said. 

“It’s amazing. I know young children use iPads but to actually see them in class doing math in so many creative ways, it was like watching kids play and at the same time they were obviously learning. I think they’re forgetting how much they’re gaining in terms of learning because they’re so engaged.” 

As gadgets continue to replace paper and pens, Bruce-Veitch said it’s a different classroom than what she learned in. 

“Math was not my favourite subject, I would have loved to have learned in a creative way like that. I think it’s going to be fun to see who’s teaching who. The kids seem to be as informed on the use of the iPad as some of the teachers so I think there’s going to be some real good teamwork.” 

ty.dunham@tc.tc

 

Organizations: Iron Ore Company of Canada, IOC, Labrador school J.R. Smallwood Middle School Apple Inc. Smart Board

Geographic location: Labrador West

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