Maumee Valley Country Day School (MVCDS) students stream through hallways between classes in chatty clusters, but their arms aren’t loaded with textbooks and their shoulders aren’t hoisting heavy backpacks. Many carry only a slim case containing their school-issued iPad.
After the success of a pilot program with last year’s seventh- and eighth-graders, MVCDS expanded its one-to-one iPad initiative through 12th grade this school year. A classroom set of iPads was also added to each preschool through sixth-grade classroom.
“We did a major investment of iPads this year,” said Melissa Kuhl, MVCDS’s director of marketing and communications. “Middle-schoolers had them last year and they were really our trial group. We soon learned they were teaching us how to use them. They were taking it that much further than we expected, which was great. We soon went in the Middle School to a whole cloud environment, where document-sharing was happening within the classroom from peer to peer as well as from student to teacher, so it was a really good collaborative experiment.”
Many textbooks and required readings are downloaded directly to the devices and teachers and students alike are encouraged to explore and experiment with apps, Kuhl said.
“It’s really teacher-driven, the app usage. We make recommendations, but we don’t really hold back what teachers find and use,” Kuhl said. “And the kids have ideas too. They’ll say, ‘Oh, I’ve seen this app and it’s educational’ and we use it. So it’s working out really well.”
MVCDS enrolls 490 students: 200 in the Upper School, 80 in the Middle School and 210 in the Lower School. The $156,000 iPad initiative was paid for by the school. Tuition was not increased, but parents pay a technology fee that covers iPad insurance, Kuhl said.
Middle-school Spanish teacher Kelsy Grefe was part of last
year’s pilot program and said she’s happy the school decided to expand the program.
“I really see the value in an iPad education and I wouldn’t want to go back to the way it was before,” said Grefe, a 2003 MVCDS alumna. “It enables students to be more empowered and involved with their learning. The possibilities are pretty limitless.”
Grefe’s students access Spanish-English dictionaries with audio pronunciation aids, conjugation practice apps and more.
They also created original illustrations for a story they wrote in Spanish, recorded themselves reading it, “published” the digital audiobook online and then shared the story with younger students.
Grefe’s first homework assignment was to explore the App Store.
“The kids are going to be innovative and teach you new things and show you apps you might not have thought of using,” Grefe said. “I picked up a few apps from the kids that way. It’s awesome they can be a part of it.”
Grefe said some students will take photos of textbook pages they need to study or notes on the board rather than carrying home a textbook or taking notes on paper. They can also record audio of Grefe explaining a homework assignment or teaching a lesson.
“Some people think it’s negative to put them in front of a screen all day, but they learn a lot and interact with each other,” Grefe said. “It’s not holding them back from being functional members of society. Society has evolved to this and we have to evolve with it. It’s normal to them. They are digital natives. In some ways I am too, but not in the same way they are.”
Head of Upper School Gareth Griffith came to MVCDS from an independent school in his native Greensboro, N.C., which has had a one-to-one laptop program for 12 years.
“As a classroom teacher, I can’t imagine teaching in an environment that doesn’t have that access to a broader world through an iPad or a laptop, that doesn’t have the capacity to collaborate with other students who are not necessarily in the room with you, that doesn’t have the capacity to create in multimedia as you can with an iPad,” Griffith said. “Having come from an environment where you could do that, I can’t imagine teaching in an environment that doesn’t, to go back to a pen and paper world.”
Even the school’s youngest students can benefit educationally from iPads, said Early Learning Center Director Heather Benson.
The students used iPads to experiment with nature photography on a recent field trip and teachers often use the devices to record students explaining a picture they drew or a story they wrote.
“Instead of the old methodology, the low-tech methodology, in which the teacher would write under the student’s writing or picture what they said it was about, the student is telling in their own words,” Benson said.
The iPads can also help monitor developmental progress, Benson said.
An easel app, for example, records the strokes a child uses to draw a picture, allowing teachers to check if a child draws a line in one continuous stroke that crosses the midline or if they draw half from the right and half from the left.
“Once the drawing is completed on a piece of paper, you can’t tell what came first or how the student drew the line, but the iPad can record exactly the strokes and movements a child made,” Benson said. “It’s a really handy tool to be able to show a parent a skill a particular child needed to develop.”
Kuhl said the iPads are not used all the time or in every subject.
All Maumee Valley Country Day School middle and upper school students were issued an iPad.
“At school, we’re very careful to make sure it’s used at appropriate times. We say, ‘OK, it’s time to close the iPads. Put them away. We’re going to do this now,’ or ‘Pull out your iPads. We can use these for research in this area,’” Kuhl said. “We also coached parents on how to control screen time in the home environment, about using the iPads appropriately for homework or research as needed and then closing them.
“Many families already had them, so it wasn’t new technology we were introducing into their lives in the evenings.”
Although collaboration is encouraged, cheating is not tolerated and is almost nonexistent at MVCDS, Kuhl said.
“On the cloud, everything is documented so you can tell who has made what modifications to documents. It’s tagged with their username, so you can see very easily who has contributed,” Kuhl said. “I have never once heard of any issues in the building. Students take their work very seriously. They are here to learn and we make learning really fun.”
Embracing the new technology will help students in college as well as their future jobs, Griffith said.
“This is a place that is truly thinking about preparing students for the 21st century, asking them to collaborate and network and create creatively in ways that their working world will require,” Griffith said. “It’s very exciting.”
For more information, visit www.mvcds.org.
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