Teachers finding place for iPads in classroom

Christina Calloway

Special needs students at Valencia Elementary School are enhancing their learning experience in the classroom with the use of iPads.

Julie Maloney-Pena’s small class of three received two iPads in October from the school district and Pena says her students have progressed in their learning and social skills since using them.

“It’s been a real blessing in our classroom,” Pena said. “It really promotes a lot of appropriate social skills, which are often lacking in our classroom.”

The special education director at Valencia encourages the teachers to incorporate the use of iPads in their lesson plans.

Pena’s students support what they learn in the classroom by using the applications on the iPad that provide associated lessons and games.

“We have a lot of ebooks on the iPad that are interactive,” Pena said. “They can play the games on each page. Math games also reinforce skills that they are taught.”

In addition to reading and math, Pena’s students are also practicing their writing on the iPad and beginning typing skills.

The iPad keeps charts of the children’s improvement in these subjects and Pena says her students even prefer to take their spelling tests on the iPad because they like to track their growth.

“They are a lot more willing to use the iPad, they’re just doing the exact same thing we would do in the classroom,” Pena said. “One student is in the pre-reading stages and just having him find the letters on the iPad keyboard has been a big motivation instead of showing him a flash card.”

Because the iPad has become quite popular with Pena’s students, she also uses the iPad as a reward because she says it’s a strong initiative for her students to do well.

Not only is the iPad helping the students academically, Pena says iPad usage in her classroom has promoted independence and leadership.

Pena says there are a lot of skills her students have developed on their own such as taking pictures and recording video with the iPad.

“They figure out things on their own,” Pena said. “They’re very independent with (the iPad), they know how to manipulate it. The children are teaching us.”

Pena’s students also help each other when using the iPad.

“They all have specific strengths that they’re reaching out to the other with and that’s neat to see,” Pena said.

Kaitlyn Harrison, 10, likes to watch videos that her teachers film of the students in the classroom.

“I help teach (the other students) how to watch the videos,” Harrison said.

One student in particular is more dependent on the iPad than the others because it is his way of verbal communication.

“The voice output system on the iPad helps to understand him better,” Pena said. “Once the iPad says it for him, he tries to say it as well.”

Pena says because it is a technology-based product and because he does like iPads so much, he is more willing to use it instead of his picture book.

Pena plans to continue making the voice output system successful for that student.