South Sanpete students will use iPADS more extensively than ever this year
By Suzanne Dean
MANTI—The South Sanpete School District will continue its focus on the “technology side of things,” during 2016-17, Superintendent Kent Larsen said Tuesday as teachers prepared to return to their classrooms.
The district will continue what it calls its “one-to-one” initiative, under which every middle-school and high-school student has a school-issued iPADs and uses that single device for most of his or her schoolwork.
But in the coming year, schools will use the iPADs to disseminate a bigger variety of materials and instruction to students. Likewise, students will do assignments in new formats only possible with innovative software, Larsen said.
A student’s iPADs will not be “simply a substitute for pen and paper,” Larsen said, “but a tool for more advanced levels of technology.”
Last year, one high school student demonstrated that potential when a health teacher told the class they could prepare a report in any format they liked. The student created a three-dimensional looking pamphlet on the respiratory system.
Rather than a traditional book report, students could make Power Point presentations on books they’ve read and share the presentations with other students, Larsen said.
One big step the district has already started taking, Larsen said, is integrating CANVAS, a software program for classroom management and instruction, into iPADs.
CANVAS enables a teacher to assemble reading, instructional videos and a related assignment on a single web-based page, Larsen said. Students use the materials to learn, complete the assignment and even to submit it to the teacher. The teacher grades the assignment right in the CANVAS system.
Most Utah colleges, including Snow College, use CANVAS, so teaching secondary students to use it is “another strategy for preparing students for college,” the superintendent said.
Another big step, one the district and school board are still deliberating about, is having students take end-of-year SAGE tests on their iPADs. (SAGE stands for Student Assessment of Growth and Excellence. The Utah State Office of Education requires all students statewide to take the tests.)
Currently, schools in the district have just one or two rooms each equipped with the computers students must use for the tests. That means all classes in the school have to rotate through the limited number of computer labs. So, testing has to start in April, nearly two months before the end of school.
If students could take the tests on their iPADs, classes wouldn’t be tied to the lab schedule. “They could just do the testing whenever they needed to do it.”
Larsen did an informal experiment a few years ago at Gunnison High School in which students waited until the end of the year to test. In physics and other science subjects, the additional weeks of instruction translated to 9-11 percent higher scores than in groups that tested before instruction was complete.
At the same time students are using iPADs more extensively than ever before, South Sanpete schools will be emphasizing what Larsen calls “digital citizenship” more than ever.
Every student with an iPAD will receive instruction on refraining from accessing inappropriate or dangerous sites, and avoiding sending any personal information over the Internet.
Larsen mentioned several other ongoing goals in the district.
South Sanpete will continue to work toward having 90 percent of primary-grade students reading on grade level by third grade.
Increasingly, elementary schools will focus not just on overall reading skill but on identifying the specific aspects of reading a student is having trouble with, such as phonetics or so-called “decoding,” and doing “skill-based” intervention.
The district will continue to participate in the K-16 Alliance, an organization Snow College has established for collaboration with secondary schools in the Six-County Area.
The alliance is to make sure schools are teaching students the skills they will need when they get to the college and reducing the number of students who need remedial work at Snow before they can take regular classes.