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Teachers learn to use iPad to enhance lessons

Students might not notice the difference a teacher’s iPad makes in the classroom, but West Valley School District educators do.

Nearly 30 elementary, middle and high school teachers took a Tech Academy this week to learn how the Apple tablet can supplement their lesson plans.

The instructor, English teacher Kamiel Youseph, said organization is one of the biggest benefits the tool makes in the classroom. But teachers need to gain confidence and mold the technology to their own style.

“There’s a lot of anxiety. Suddenly they’re in charge of a $500 piece of equipment and a lot of people think there’s a button that says self-destruct,” Youseph said. “There’s no way to mess this up – unless you dip it in water.”

The program is funded through the district’s technology levy. .

Voters have been approving the levy in two- or three-year increments since 1998, giving the district $500,000 a year. The Tech Academy originally started with courses on Microsoft Office products, district spokeswoman Sue Shields said.

The new class starts with the basics: connecting to wireless Internet, taking photos, video and how to share, and what apps work well for teaching a class. The foundation is helping teachers find their own way to adapt the tools to their own classroom.

For students learning English, teacher Lupe Austin records them reading selections from “The Kite Runner” out loud and compares their progress to audio recordings from earlier in the school year.

Austin quickly identified the keyboard languages on the iPad as potentially useful for her English Language Learners students who primarily speak either Russian or Spanish.

Head wrestling coach Bob McMurdo has already been using an iPad for his Centennial Middle School wrestlers to show new techniques on the mat. A bad move can be played back to the wrestler on video, McMurdo said, and show what they did wrong.

Tablets keep lesson tools in the teacher’s hand during a class instead of being tethered to a desk or book, Youseph explained. He stressed that students won’t realize in the moment they’re benefiting from the new technology, but teachers will.

Some apps like Stick Pick, Youseph said, keep track of a student’s comprehension of material defined by Bloom’s Taxonomy, a classification of learning objectives for critical thinking and writing.

“When I’m at home planning my lessons, I can see my class is not ready to go into rhetorical analysis because they’re still stuck,” Youseph said.