Students in Janet Cantrell's third grade class at South Elementary School had a new addition to their classroom when they returned from winter break on Thursday.
The students began lessons using Apple iPads Thursday morning, the first time they've got to utilize them since the district provided iPad carts at elementary schools district wide.
"The teachers all got iPads at the beginning of the year so they could start to be familiar, then we got the iPad carts sometime at the end of November," said South Elementary principal Lee Woodward.
She said the teachers underwent training before the break on how to implement the iPads into classroom instruction.
"It really helps to engage the kids and we live in such a technology time that they're so used to having it at their fingertips, that it just makes it really nice for them to have that to apply in the classroom," Woodward said. "But, they don't all have it at home so they may not be exposed to it. This is a really neat way for them to become comfortable with technology."
Cantrell began Thursday morning's lesson by allowing the students to practice handwriting on her school-issued iPad, while the iPad screen was mirrored on a larger projection screen.
After everyone had their turn, Cantrell passed out an iPad to each student, for what would be their first day of learning with the new technology.
The students' excitement was evident, as one young girl exclaimed, "we don't need a pencil anymore!"
Scott Harris, technology director for the Neosho R-5 School District, said the district began using iPads at the elementary level in the 2011-2012 school year at Goodman Elementary School. The school had a cart of iPads shared by the different classrooms to incorporate into daily lessons.
Harris said the iPad program was piloted at Goodman, before being expanded to all elementary schools last fall.
"We had a lot of success with that at Goodman," Harris said.
"We've gotten excellent feedback from the teachers."
Now, Harris said the district is in the process of expanding the iPad use to the middle school and is looking into implementing netbooks at the secondary level, as well as increasing the number of carts of iPads at the elementary schools.
"Education is having to deal with the fact that these kids are living in a digital age and that's what they're used to," Harris said. "It's basically just getting the kids engaged more."
Harris said the Neosho school district is one of the first schools in Southwest Missouri to implement the iPad program, though added technology in the classroom is becoming a requirement.
"This is all tied into the common core assessment, it requires us to infuse technology into the classroom," Harris said.
Page 2 of 2 - He said there are a total of 180 iPads that fill six carts in the elementary schools, in addition to the iPads each teacher in the elementary schools and middle school have been assigned.
"That's an initiative that we're starting from the elementary up," Harris said of the iPad program. "In talking with our folks at Apple, we felt like that was the best place to start because the apps were geared toward elementary kids."
Woodward said there are several apps that can be incorporated into the elementary classroom, some that help with handwriting, while others help with students' math skills. She said she expects the iPads to be a helpful addition to the classrooms.
"It's just another way to excite them about learning," she said.
Harris said though it may not happen in the immediate future, the school district plans to one day pursue a one-to-one initiative, meaning each student would have some form of technology, possibly an iPad, a netbook, or a laptop, that they could check out at the beginning of the year and take home to use throughout the school year.
Harris said he has already spoken with incoming superintendent Dan Decker about pursuing the initiative.
In a previous interview, in which Decker spoke with the Daily News about his new position, he said he plans to pursue the one-to-one initiative.
"It is imminent, it is definitely in our future," Harris said.