Greenfield schools welcome iPad use in classroom

Forget the chalkboard. Throw away that pencil. Students in a Hancock County community are embracing the latest technology as a new learning tool.

The Greenfield-Central school district has used money from a Federal Communications Commission program to purchase about 80 iPads. The devices are being used in kindergarten and first grade and by school board members, principals and teacher team leaders in the district's "Leaders on iPad" initiative.

School officials said they initially envisioned using iPads to track skills students have mastered. But first-grade teacher Greg Vogel told the Daily Reporter that the devices have become valuable instructional tools and can even provide an incentive for good behavior.

"It's really something for the kids who aren't that motivated normally," Vogel said. "We could do the same thing with paper and pencils and they could care less, but with the iPad it's much more exciting."

Money for the devices comes from grants the school district received in 2009 and 2010 from the Schools and Libraries Program of the Universal Services Fun, which helps schools and libraries obtain affordable telecommunications and Internet access.

Eden Elementary Principal Joey Johnson said children are wired to use technology, which makes the iPads a good teaching device.

"It helps us meet the kids where they are without compromising the learning environment," Johnson said.

While the children are eager to get their hands on the devices, some adults on the school board are finding a bigger learning curve.

The Greenfield-Central school board held its first paperless meeting in September, using an application designed for handling the school board's packets.

Board member Dan Leary said the device isn't as user-friendly as a laptop or netbook but "goes a long way to being green as far as not having to use paper."

Still, he's pleased that the devices have caught on with students.

"We didn't grow up on that stuff, other than a Pong game or Space Invaders," Leary said. "I want the kids … (to) turn that (iPad time) into an exciting learning lesson."

J.B. Stephens Elementary School Principal Candy Short said the iPads have created excitement among teachers as they work to find the most appropriate educational applications for their students to use.

"Ordinarily, you don't think about (this sort of technology) so much at an elementary, but we should be," Short said. "It's what they're used to. It's a great tool that we have to educate."

School officials say they hope to get distribute about 15 iPads to student leaders at the junior high and high school next semester.

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