Fifth graders: quite possibly the wiggliest and wildest of all the creatures in the wild savannah that is the typical elementary school. But give them an iPad to play with, and they become as docile as well-fed house cats. At Roch Courreges school in Fountain Valley, they also become wholeheartedly engaged in the lesson at hand -- whether they realize it or not.
Thanks to some inspiration from Apple and some heavy-duty fundraising by the PTA, Courreges is well on its way to becoming a fully integrated and interactive campus, with iPads and Apple TV in every classroom. For now, the technology moves from room to room depending on the lesson at hand. On Monday, it came to Mrs. Johnson's fifth grade class for 45 minutes of interactive story time.
"At fifth grade, it takes a lot more to get them interacting and get them engaged because they're older," Johnson said. "Just seeing that, they were all so engaged, all just waiting for their turn to go… Being able to give it to each kid, they just can't wait to see what that next person's going to do with it."
The push to get Courreges wired -- or wireless, as it were, with the latest technology comes largely in part from Principal Chris Christensen, who personally conducting Monday's interactive story session with Johnson's class. The district has taken notice, and is now pushing to help the rest of its schools follow Courreges' example.
"My philosophy is that it's there as a tool to enhance learning," Christensen said. "Even myself now as a student learning this stuff, I'm much more engaged because of the iPad and the other technology than I was in the past when we didn't have the technology…When they see this kind of technology in the classroom, they get really excited. I could sit up there and read a book, and they'd be bored out of their minds. I can guarantee you, for 45 minutes here, they're not bored at all."
Because it's app-based, the application of the technology is limited only to their imaginations. Besides interactive books, Johnson uses it to track which students she's called on during a given day and how often they respond correctly. She can also use it to touch on subjects that her students might not normally see until they're older because the technology makes complex subjects easier to understand -- and because the students are already so adept at using it.
"These kids, they go home to all this," Johnson said. "They all have iPads at home. So it's nice that now that can go to school, and it's not just the textbooks and the paper and the pencils. It's like, 'Wow, look what we did on the iPad. I want to go home and do that on mine.' I can open that gate to them instead of them saying, 'I want Angry Birds' first. We just spent 45 minutes reading a book. It's incredible that we can keep the learning going that long, and keep them engaged."