Every student will have an iPad this year at Harris Elementary School.
What started a few years back with a cart of tablets has blossomed as teachers have embraced digital learning, principal Beth Schwartz said: “This year, since every child has their own, if kids are doing a research project, they all can get involved.”
Envision this: Not only are tablets ideal for practicing basic math skills, but if kids fall behind they can load review videos to catch up to the rest of the class without cutting into instruction time.
In language arts class, students can share their writing ideas, edit each others’ papers, and complete reading assignments all via iPads.
Most kids are already using tablets are home, so it makes sense to use the tech in the classroom, Schwartz said. “They have no fear, which is really fun to watch. Grownups sometimes don’t want to explore, afraid they might make mistakes, but kids dive right in.”
Tablets take the fun of games such as Minecraft and Pokemon Go and co-opt it for learning, “and that’s going to help them in years to come,” said Schwartz. By the time they move on to college and careers, today’s kids are going to have a comfort level and know-how with technology that will let them be extremely independent.
Still, she encourages families to keep toys and electronics at home. Cell phones can be taken to school for safety but they need to be turned off and left in a book-bag so as not to be a distraction.
Harris Elementary is growing this year. A boost of about 35 in enrollment over the summer has prompted the hiring of an additional teacher at the third grade level.
Schwartz is excited about continuing the Comet Pride program for a second year, focusing on making positive choices. “Last year we saw kids learning the importance of thinking of others,” she said — if someone spills milk, she saw kids jumping up to get paper towels instead of jeering.
This is already a somewhat bittersweet year for Schwartz because it could be the last for Harris Elementary.
If all goes according to the district’s plans, Harris will be torn down to make way for a new K-3 school, which will carry on the Powers Elementary name in honor of longtime Amherst educator Fred Powers.
“It’s exciting to know there are new possibilities for the future,” Schwartz said, but she is torn to be welcoming what may be the very last batch of Harris students into her building.
“I want people to know I’m excited about the year and we love to share the good things that are going on here at Harris,” she said, urging families to seek out neat updates through the year from the News-Times, Twitter, and Facebook.
An open house will be held from 4:30-5:30 p.m. on Tuesday, Aug. 16 at Harris.