By KERRY DRAGER
The decision to move ahead with the use of iPad Minis in the classroom has proved to be a great resource and valuable tool for the Royalton School District.
This year, every student in the fifth grade was given an iPad. Fifth grade teachers Rusty Gwost, Melissa Hammer and Chad Shelstad, said this introduction has been a learning process but is becoming a huge success with little drawback.
“For the most part we’ve had a good year with them,” said Gwost. “The hard part is getting the kids to think of them as a learning tool and not for games.”
Once the children grew accustomed to having the tablets in the classroom and at home, they easily transitioned into using it for learning, the teachers said. From presentations to contacting the teachers for help with homework, students have become so comfortable with the technology they are even showing their teachers how to use new apps. Many of the apps used in the classroom can be tailored to the individual needs of the children.
“We are learning from our students. A new student introduced to us a reading response journal app. This app can create slides based on what was happening on the chapter we were reading. It can handle text, it can draw pictures, record what was read and can upload pictures. It is helpful for kids who do not feel comfortable presenting in front of the class. They can just record their presentations beforehand,” said Hammer.
Staff agreed that the technology has not dominated the classroom. It has become an integrated part of the learning environment and has even helped students that are unable to attend class due to illness or events.
“It’s like a portable little white board,” said Shelstad. “If the student is gone, I can record and talk into my iPad. I can draw a problem and they can almost listen to the whole lesson right there on their iPad. They need internet connections at home but if they have access, they don’t have to stew about academic problems anymore.”
This new technological tool is also proving a vital piece to the learning relationship between teacher and student. It allows teacher’s to reach out to their students in a way that children are familiar with and comfortable with using.
“The kids are able to communicate with me when things aren’t going well socially as well as in their homework. I am able to de-escalate the problem they are having so that they can enjoy their weekend and then can deal with it right away on Monday. We are looking out for them and are willing to communicate with our students. This is such a powerful tool and the kids have been very good at not abusing it,” said Gwost.
Having access to the Internet was a concern with bringing this technology into the learning experience, but the Royalton community has adapted to this change. Staff noted that there is an influx as more families are getting access to the Internet now that this tool is available to their children. This not only enriches the child’s ability to learn but also enriches their lives simply by having the massive amount of knowledge and usability that the Internet itself provides.
Royalton High School’s Yes! Team was awarded this year’s Lt. Governor’s Red Wagon Award. This award acknowledges Minnesota youths who have increased civic engagement, shown academic achievement and provided leadership in their community.
The Yes! Team has done several activities to help improve their school and community. Including an oil recycling effort on school grounds. During April’s school board meeting, they approached the board with a new plan to develop environmental responsibility in their peers while keeping recyclable material out of landfills. Trash bins with a carton shaped tops will be used for empty milk cartons. In a year’s time this will keep roughly 417 trash bags worth of recyclable paper milk cartons from being sent to the dump.
The team also approached the board on replacing non-working and dirty water fountains throughout the district. The new watering stations will come equip with special water bottle filters as well as a drinking spigot. Water filters will keep the drinking water free of contaminants, an important feature as some piping in the school has lead soldering. The new fountains will cost $959 per station. How many new fountains to purchase will be addressed in next month’s board meeting.
Other business that came before the Royalton School Board included:
•Approval on a trip to Costa Rica in 2015 for Spanish students. Cost of the trip will be $2,300 per student and will include everything from plane fare to food and lodging. Students are working on a fundraiser to help pay for these expenses;
•Learning that the city was denied for the Safe Routes for Schools grant that would be used to improve crosswalks near the elementary school. However, they were approved for grant funds on the federal level and will be taking the necessarily steps with Morrison County to begin the project;
•Hearing that at least eight families would benefit from busing pre-school students to and from school. The cost to run this additional transportation option would cost $20,000, something the board was not comfortable doing for only eight students. If more interest is shown, the board is willing to look at possibly adding busing for pre-school in the future;
•Approval for Wednesday, June 4 to be the last day of school for students. Staff will remain until the end of the week for in-service days; and
•Noting the Board is encouraging area residents to attend site tours at other Minnesota schools to help facilitate ideas and opinions on school layouts.
A special board meeting for a re-cap discussion on building options is scheduled for Tuesday, May 6, at 6 p.m. at the high school.
The next regularly scheduled Royalton School Board meeting is Monday, May 12, at 6 p.m. at the high school.