Some worry today’s ubiquitous technology is decreasing literacy. But Holly Thompson, a media specialist at Crest View Elementary in Brooklyn Park, plans to use it to do the opposite.
Thompson recently sought out, applied for and received a $35,000 federal grant to purchase 64 iPads for her action plan called “iRead at Crest View.” The grant was a Library Services and Technology Act (LSTA) grant from the Institute of Museum and Library Services. In addition to iPads, it funds the purchase of applications (apps), electronic-books (e-books), supplies needed to manage the iPads, and teacher training to ensure effective use.
Thompson applied for the grant last summer but didn’t hear results until months later. She expects to receive and begin using the iPads by the beginning of February.
“This building doesn’t have much technology,” Thompson said. “… Sixty-four iPads in the building will be a game-changer for the kids.”
Thompson expects the iPads will help teach reading; help kids learn to navigate “nonlinear text,” such as webpages with hyperlinks; and allow students to be creative and demonstrate learning in new ways.
“I think they’ll be using tools to create things that they wouldn’t (otherwise) be able to,” she said.
Dawn Nelson, instructional media and technology coordinator for the Osseo School District, agreed.
“It’s not about the technology,” she said. “It’s about the learning that piece of equipment can enable. … How can we use these to get kids to think more deeply? If we’re just using them as worksheets, paper’s cheaper.”
Crest View’s grant is specifically intended to “extend library services in the classroom,” and Thompson plans to have four iPads remain in each classroom. Keeping the devices in the rooms will allow teachers to integrate the iPads into instruction, rather than plan around trips to the media center.
That’s a key to success, Nelson said.
“My vision is that these portable devices make access to information seamless,” she said.
Nelson noted the iPads will be secure and strictly filtered for safety. Teachers or administrators can control the apps available on the devices and can even change which apps are available from class to class. That discourages distractions from learning.
To meet the grant requirements, Thompson will need to report the school’s progress to the Department of Education. She will also need to publish links to student work on a website.
The work Thompson has done with the grant is in addition to her usual responsibilities, and she has put a lot of her own time into the project. But she feels strongly about it.
“People who don’t (spend time) here, in this building, won’t really grasp how huge having iPads in each classroom will be,” she said, tears glistening in the corners of her eyes.
When she opened the email informing her the school got the grant,she couldn’t contain her excitement.
“I literally bounced … to the principal’s office,” she said. When Thompson shared the news, Principal Suzette Erickson started jumping up and down as well.
Nelson said the grant is indeed something to be excited about.
“Those LSTA grants are very difficult to get, very difficult to write,” Nelson said. “(Thompson) so cares for her students. She wants to make things work for them.”
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