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iPads Opening up Worlds of Learning for KISD Students
Today’s technology is opening exciting worlds of learning for Kerrville ISD students.
Donna West, Daniels Special Elementary teacher, tells of a 6-year-old student who came to her Functional Living Unit needing help with the basic training of life - how to eat, how to use the restroom. He did not speak or interact with others.
One day as part of a pilot study they brought in an iPad and made a surprising discovery - the student could read.
“We had another child working on an app with a picture of an animal surrounded by words,” West said. “He looked over that child’s shoulder and said, ‘Jaguar!’ He was picking out the words!”
That was just the start. The formerly non-verbal child went on to compose his thoughts using the device, bringing up words, and then saying them out loud.
The surprises did not stop there. Dilana Gohlke, Speech Therapist, tells of another student, aged 5. He did not speak - the only way he communicated was to scream. When they placed the device in front of him, he began using the screen to communicate, flicking the pictures so quickly it was hard to keep up.
“This was a lifesaver for him,” Gohlke said. “It has allowed us to teach him and control his experience, instead of having him screaming and running out.”
What these devices do best is to open an electronic window that the students can access easily and quickly, according to Joel Adkins, Chief Technology Officer for KISD. Speed is important - and the iPads give feedback as fast as the child can handle. They are interactive and quick. The easy “point and click” interface means the child does not need keyboard skills.
Surprisingly, the technology is off the shelf, making the devices cost-effective, or “affordable and portable.”
There is also the appeal of the colorful and responsive devices. “Sometimes the students will respond more to the iPad than to a real person,” West said.
Even so, “it is never about the gadget,” Adkins added. “The iPad is a cool thing, but it’s always about what can be done to help someone.”
Every week, the instructors are learning innovative ways to use the technology now at their fingertips. After practicing ordering from menus on the iPad, the students took a field trip to a real restaurant where they were able to order meals in public for the first time.
“That shows that technology is not a gimmick,” said Adkins. “It has to have purpose and direction.”
The technology was part of a grant pilot study to target one student. The student made so much progress - going from non speaking to verbal - that “it was amazing,” according to Laurie Gagne, Senior Director for Special Education.
“We saw such dramatic results,” Gagne said. “We said, wait a minute. Why are we only doing one student as a pilot program?”
Gagne found funds to purchase the tablets for all the district’s elementary FLU units.
“We felt like it was best practice that we could do that.”
The next phase is to get the equipment to the secondary FLU units. It all benefits a special student population looking for innovative ways to reach out to the world.
“We have an obligation to look at new technology,” Gagne said. “What will allow our students to access the general curriculum and make academic gains?”
Both students and teachers are showing how the iPads are doing that.
“This technology is so fast, and the kids are so engaged,” Gohlke said. “It speaks for them; they can finally tell you what they want.”
Results of a technology pilot program using apps on the iPad were so dramatic, the Kerrville ISD is adding them to all Functional Living Units.