Fort Dodge Community School District has been gifted 40 iPads by the Prairie Lakes Area Education Agency.
PLAEA used funds remaining from the end of a three-year Enhancing Education Through Technology (E2T2) grant, provided by the Iowa Department of Education, to purchase the new technology for the school district.
"We had many teachers that participated in our E2T2 project and we had enough money that we could give two iPads to each of our classroom teachers that participated in it," Diane Jackson, PLAEA administrator of staff and support services, said.
The primary purpose of the E2T2 grant is to "improve the academic achievement of students through the use of technology and to ensure that every student is technology literate by the end of eighth grade."
The program emphasized science education in grades three through five, Jackson said.
"We used a program called Aha! Science," she said. "It was a computer software program and they all participated in that for three years. They use Aha! with their FOSS (Full Option Science System) kits."
The results of the program were encouraging, Jackson said.
"We found that the kids were very engaged," she said. "It engaged the kids more in science and using technology."
Certain district teachers in grades three through five received two iPads, one for the teacher to use and one for student use, all kept in the classroom, according to Sue Wood, FDCSD director of curriculum, instruction and assessment.
"We were thrilled about this," she said. "It's an excellent way for us to move forward in technology, and it's a great way for teachers to get to know the iPad who may not have one personally."
The students especially benefit from the new technology, Wood said.
"It goes back to student engagement," she said. "Some teachers are using iPads as centers, say if a student needs enrichment or even remediation in something. Two or three students can go work with this iPad and receive instruction."
Mindy Utley, Fair Oaks Middle School teacher, is already exploring the technology to integrate it into her lessons.
"I've been just trying to explore them and figure out how they work, and what apps I can use in the classroom for the kids, certain games that go with my curriculum, like science and math games," she said.
Utley said the iPad will be a good educational aid. For now, she's learning from her students.
"They're showing me some things I can do with it that I don't know," she said. "They don't have a fear of technology. They can just pick up things and try it out. And then they show me different things."
The district was already piloting iPads with some of its teachers to see its use in the classroom as an educational aid, Wood said.
"The apps and the educational kinds of sites that are available are so engaging to kids," she said. "We're really just tickled that we're going to have that many more iPads for kids to be able to use."
She added, "It's a wonderful tool for us and a great opportunity."