Palmyra's “one-to-one” ratio technology initiative is moving ahead at full speed, with each student from Kindergarten through 12th grade using an Apple iPad to enhance and supplement their learning experience.

Palmyra's “one-to-one” ratio technology initiative is moving ahead at full speed, with each student from Kindergarten through 12th grade using an Apple iPad to enhance and supplement their learning experience.

For the 2016-2017 school year, students can select from grade and class-level appropriate applications — the programs can be even be electronically “pushed” to one student's iPad to meet his or her unique learning style. Palmyra Middle School Principal Steven Kerr said the smooth rollout of the technology has helped students and teachers learn together, offering a new tool for learning. Superintendent Kirt Malone said each iPad is housed in a sturdy case, and fifth through 12th grade students can take the devices home, using applications tailored to their classes and Google Classroom — where many teachers post daily schedules, assignments that can be turned in electronically and quizzes that allow students to engage in friendly competition — as their teacher sees each student's performance results in real-time.

“Our students get to see that our staff is also learning,” he said. “It's great for them to see their teachers evolving and learning stuff right there with them.” He said students take responsibility for each iPad, treating them with care and regularly creating unique artwork and projects.

Kerr said one of the program's biggest benefits has been boosting organization skills for students in the middle school, opening up the ability to keep research materials, assignments and other tasks in one place. For teachers, the iPad has opened up new communication channels that weren't possible before. Malone said that parents can look through Google Classroom with their children, reviewing completed assignments, scheduled projects, feedback and grades together.

Technology Director John Watkins uses Apple's Self Service application to send grade-level appropriate applications to students' iPads. He said there is no App Store on the device; the applications in Self Service are the only ones students can install. ButWatkins can make sure each student receives apps tailored to their strengths and the classes they're enrolled in.

“My son is a sophomore, and he gets on Self Service when he goes into his science class,” Malone said. “His teacher tells the class to open up Self Service and go to the app they are going to use for the day.”

Malone and faculty members said they looked forward to seeing increased success for students, coupled with a more immersive experience for teachers and parents alike.

“I'm excited about the opportunities for students and teachers to enhance learning in each classroom,” Malone said. “We want the iPads to be used as a tool in the classroom, and not be an end-all — but to enhance the learning that's going on and to impact the students in a positive way.”

At Palmyra High School, librarian Stacey Conrad said there are public library and school library apps on the iPads that help students find just the right book for pleasure or research. She said students don't just come to the library with their iPads for research — they regularly use a room with a towering green screen to create projects with an image from their device, using technology similar to what a meteorologist uses to point out weather patterns on a virtual map. Conrad said she is exploring potential e-book purchases for the future, so students can read on their iPads along with traditional books. Junior Trevor Stratton stopped by the library, noting how much the iPad and Google Classroom has helped his academic success so far.

He said his teacher can post homework and future assignments so he can review what's ahead, and he enjoys the chance to work on assignments beforehand, or ask a question. Conrad said faculty members selected Google Classroom to prepare students for technology employed in colleges and universities across the country.

Stratton said the iPad allows him to switch between different apps, search the internet and use the TI Nspire app — a full-featured graphing calculator. He also enjoyed the chance for teachers to provide immediate feedback and instant grades for multiple choice quizzes.

“I haven't done a research paper yet, but I imagine it would make it a lot easier to have all the resources for research right there, and you can split-screen and be typing and researching all at the same time,” he said. Fellow junior Kinsey Tiemann said she also appreciated having lesson plans, assignments and quizzes in one place on Google Classroom.

She said she enjoys using the Duolingo app amid her first year of learning Spanish. Traditional lessons are bolstered by the app's categories like sports, animals and food — reinforcing basic terminology and compiling all of the words she has learned. For Tiemann, the iPad offers a unique opportunity to learn new skills that will carry into the future, noting that she prefers writing information down in a notebook.

“I'm hoping to be better adapted to the technology world,” she said.

Conrad said applications can be selected for each student's learning style and specific academic strengths, citing apps that use a stylus for manually taking notes as an example. She said other apps emphasize images, while others focus on auditory learning.

“It's just another tool in our toolbox to make us better educators,” she said.

Addy Gottman, Palmyra Middle School Tech Coach and math teacher, said the iPad offers students the chance to find an answer instantly — encouraging “lots of exploration.” She said classmates enjoy friendly competition through quizzes, which provide Gottman with instant results for each student. She also noticed that her students are utilizing the Remind app, making checklists through notices from Google Classroom as a checklist for tasks. Students are also learning skills like checking email and using Google Docs and Sheets to prepare for college.

Gottman said she has been learning right along with her students to be flexible as the program blossoms. She said she teaches students specific skills like editing documents and inserting photographs. Gottman said it's important to ask for help, like asking a student to lead a group of classmates in operating an app. She said she has learned to “take a step back,” allowing students a chance to take more ownership of their educational experience.

“You just have to learn that mistakes are OK,” she said. “Kids know a lot.”

Irene Brown, Palmyra Elementary School Tech Coach and Title math teacher, said the iLearn math app and reading apps identify gaps in a student's learning, assessing and reinforcing the skill and moving to the next stage once it is mastered. Each student can read or learn math at their own pace within the app, because they can skip pre-tests if they show proficiency in a specific area like fractions. Fourth graders Aubrey Hillman and Katelyn Mountain brought their iPads to Brown's classroom to use their favorite apps.

Hillman said she enjoyed playing games with her friends, like Cool Math and activities in Google Classroom. She said she was surprised to receive the iPad, and she didn't know about Google Classroom or the chance to use the McGraw-Hill app to complete assignments. “It really does helps with learning, with kids who are struggling with all that stuff,” Hillman said.

Mountain said she was also excited to use the iPad. Her favorite app is called Epic, where she can read the stories and videos that she likes the most.

“I'm just ready to get more assignments on it, and just learn more stuff about the iPads,” she said.

Reach reporter Trevor McDonald at trevor.mcdonald@courierpost.com