John Evans Success Story
Written by Julie Garbus
“Wow, look at the legs move!”
“Check out what happens when you touch the lungs!”
“Eww, look what happened to the food!”
These John Evans seventh-graders are excited about what they’re doing: exploring the human body using an iPad app. The app–called Human Body–presents a model of a person, showing each system—nervous, circulatory, etc—and each body part. The parts move. The eye has a little camera that shows images upside down. You can feed the body and watch the food travel through the digestive system, make the body run and watch the heart beat faster, zoom in on any organ for a closer look. I can’t stop looking at the program and wanting to play with it; it’s about a hundred times more engaging than the plastic skeletons that dangled in my seventh grade science class 35 years ago.
Only half the students can use the app at a time, though, because Lauren Carpenter’s science class only has 12 iPads. Carpenter has to carefully plan activities for the other kids that are interesting, too. If she just assigns reading, she explains, kids tend to stare longingly at their classmates on the iPads. Today, the other students are making models of organs out of clay when it’s not their turn for the iPads. In the middle of class, the groups switch.
Ideally, each student would have his or her own iPad. But that’s not possible with 24 kids per class and 20 iPads and a charging cart for the whole school. These 20 iPads see a lot of action. Dawn Hillman, John Evans’ principal, explains that since the school is focusing its iPad use on science, all 7 science teachers use the devices. So do 3 language arts teachers, a special education teacher, and a gifted/talented coordinator.
Before last summer, none of these teachers knew much about educational uses for iPads. Now they do, thanks to training sponsored by The Success Foundation, their own individual initiative, and collaboration with each other. As schools across the world adopt iPad programs, educators are realizing that effective iPad use requires that teachers receive strong training and support and be open to new learning, change, and working together. Evans teachers have taken on these challenges. Hillman expects her teachers to be as invested in education as everyone expects students to be. “Our motto is, if 100% of our teachers learn, then 100% of our students learn. I’ve asked teachers to really stretch themselves in terms of learning. By their simple commitment to growing, our students will grow. The iPads are an example.”
The new school that will replace John Evans in fall 2015, Prairie Heights Middle School, will enhance students’ access to technology. The school will have charging stations for mobile labs and a cadre of “COWs”: computers on wheels.
“We do a disservice to students if we don’t put technology in their hands,” says Hillman. “That’s the wave of the future.”