Teaching technology with students

While most students dread giving a book report, Northeast Hamilton Elementary School third graders took it all in stride when their class gave an iPad presentation at the Iowa Technology and Education Connection conference on Oct. 14 in Des Moines before 30 Iowa educators.

“I can’t begin to tell you how proud I was of my third graders that day,” said third grade teacher Tammy Massman, who admits she took a step out of her own comfort zone for the event.

Massman was only beginning to take baby steps with technology in the classroom when she attended the ITEC conference last year. There she saw Adam Nidey, a third grade teacher from Crestview Elementary School in West Des Moines and the 2012 ITEC Educator of the Year.

The experience inspired her.

“I was so impressed with his presentation that I went back to his afternoon session,” said Massman of a presentation that included Nidey’s third grade class. “I left knowing that I would follow in their footsteps one day”.

One short year later, Massman’s students found themselves at the ITEC conference as presenters.

Technology has transformed education in the last two years, said Massman. While NEH teachers and middle and high school students have had iPads since the beginning of the 2012 school year, the one-on-one K-5th grade iPad Initiative for the lower grade students didn’t begin until this fall.

Each NEH student from Kindergarten through 12th grade now has access to their own personal iPad, making Northeast Hamilton one of the technology trailblazers in the state.

“I’ve discovered that finding ways to integrate technology in the curriculum has become my passion,” confessed Massman.

Massman worked six weeks to prepare her students for the conference. Without a full-time tech person on staff at the school, she schooled herself in programming operation and set up all the students’ iPads herself.

For the students, preparing for the conference was an average day in the classroom.

Massman has eliminated desks, so students can be found working at tables or gathered together on comfy couches while working on Google Drive, Edmodo, ScribblePress, PicCollage, Toonastic or reading on a Kindle App from the classroom’s digital bookshelf.

On Oct. 14, Massman, Karla Isaacson and the ten third grade students spent the drive to Des Moines immersed with their iPads.

“I think it helped to take the pressure off,” said Massman. “They played with them all the way down (to Des Moines).”

While the magnificent venue initially dazzled the students, it wasn’t long before they got down to business, said Massman.

Perry Isaacson assisted his teacher with the Power Point presentation while Samantha Pliner and Zach Henrickson manned the computers. Other students worked alongside their classmates.

“It was scary at first, but once we got going, it was kind of fun,” said Tate Rapp.

“There were so many people there!” exclaimed Zach Henrickson.

The experience made the students globally aware of the impact their efforts have had.

“We’re going to be world famous!” said Tate Rapp.

“Yeah, kids are hearing about us in Japan. Maybe China,” said Perry Isaacson.

The students did make an impression on conference attendees, said Massman.

NEH Language Arts instructor Sherry Leksell is taking advanced degree classes at Iowa State University in technology and she related an anecdote for the class.

“Mrs. Leksell is taking a class at ISU and her professor attended the ITEC conference. In her class, he was talking about kids giving a presentation at ITEC,” said Perry Isaacson.

“Mrs. Leksell heard that and thought, ‘Those kids are from my school!'” related Massman.

“There was a lady in the class from Thailand who was amazed that kids from Mrs. Leksell’s school did that,” said Perry.

Massman is thrilled that her students have been inspired and that they are inspiring others. She now wants to inspire other educators.

“My goal for the day was to simply inspire others to go back to their schools and act like a kid, again,” said Massman. “I want teachers to play around with technology, take a few risks, make learning more authentic and give students the opportunity to take ownership of their learning”.