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Technology becomes educational tool at Cooper

From left, Hally Miner, 6, Orion Powell, 5, and Brodie Knudson, 6, work on their iPads in Jennifer Ellis’ kindergarten class at Cooper Elementary School in Superior on Wednesday morning. (Jed Carlson/

There was a time when textbooks were king — ideal for reading about ancient history, learning math formulas or viewing how to conduct science experiments.

Now, students at Cooper Elementary School are trying a more modern approach — technology.

“I love using the iPads because they help us learn,” said fifth grader Ellie Westlund. “There’s a bunch of good learning and technology apps.”

The school is using iPad minis and iPad 2’s to enhance students’ education. Students and teachers can check out anywhere from one to 30 iPad’s from the school’s library. They can be used in each grade level for a variety of classes such as math and language arts.

“They are so convenient because you can take them anywhere to do work,” said Dave Williams, library media specialist. “The students love using them because they are so versatile.”

The school’s tech committee thought it would be a good idea for students to begin using iPads in 2011. The tech committee and other school officials met to discuss the idea. The principal immediately approved the idea. Now the school is in its third year of using the iPad’s and they couldn’t be any happier.

“It was just an experiment at first,” Williams said. “We purchased five the first year and used them in numerous ways. We instantly fell in love and ordered more.”

Students use the iPad’s to take pictures while on a field trip, record video, present PowerPoints, use educational apps, write eBooks, create iMovie’s and read stories. Some of the iPads also feature Siri, a built in personal assistant that responds to spoken commands.

Westlund is one of the more skilled students when it comes to using the iPad. She uses the iPad to complete crossword puzzles and play vocabulary games.

“These apps help me expand my knowledge,” Westlund said. “I like iPad’s a lot better than textbooks.”

Kindergartner Ty Soderlund, love’s the iPad’s so much that his dad gave him his iPad last year.

“It is so much fun, I’m a pro at iPads,” Soderlund said. “I like this puppet app. It allows me to take pictures and add silly things like a clown nose or cat ears.”

Teachers appear to love the new gadgets and say students are definitely benefitting from them.

First-grade teacher Annette Albrecht has her students use an app on the iPad called IXL, which allows students to complete basic math, bar graphs, fractions and multiplication tables.

“The students are really engaged, which allows participation and grades to go up,” Albrecht said. “I wish we had iPad’s for every student. It’s such an educational device and the students know a lot about them.”

Kindergarten teacher Jennifer Ellis, said her class can’t get enough of the iPad’s. Her students use them for phonics.

“Each student can use phonic apps, it’s a lot of fun,” Ellis said. “The phonics apps range from easy to challenging levels. Each student can complete the apps at his or her own pace, and iPad’s are good for group and independent work.”

Teachers aren’t the only ones who think the iPads are wonderful; Parents seem to be pleased too.

“I think the parents are pretty enthusiastic,” Albrecht said. “The kids go home and they are excited to tell their parents about what they did on the iPad that day. The parents like that.”

Williams agrees and thinks parents are just as excited as the kids.

“Parents think it is really cool,” he said. “They don’t get to see the students use it, but they are impressed with the schools knowledge.”

A complete switch from textbooks to iPad’s could happen in the distant future at Cooper Elementary. For now, textbooks will continue to be students and teachers primary learning tool.

“We aren’t at that point yet,” Williams said. “It is a potential for the future, but we are not switching anytime soon.

“It’s more efficient than the giant computers.”