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An Apple in the classroom: New Life Academy expands iPad program to preschool

New Life Academy will begin using iPads with its preschoolers this Friday. This is the fourth year that NLA has used iPads. (Bulletin photo by Amber Kispert-Smith)

Preschoolers learn about fruits and vegetables, but now some are studying with Apples.

Now in its fourth year, the preschool program at New Life Academy will begin using iPads.

“You want to incorporate different areas into your classroom, and using technology is one of them,” NLA preschool teacher Michelle Groeneweg said. “It’s a great way to keep kids excited about learning.”

The NLA preschool classes will start by using 20 iPads for around 30 minutes every other week.

Groeneweg said she hopes that can be increased to every week.

“There’s all kinds of different experiences you can have by using those iPads,” she said, “so this year will be a year of trying some new experiences with the iPads.”

NLA, which draws students from around south Washington County, first started incorporating iPads into its curriculum, for all grades, three years ago as a way to increase technology in the classroom.

“The school really wanted us to boost up technology,” Groeneweg said. “The school’s always looking for new ways to use technology to get kids excited to learn.

“We’re trying to get the kids involved in different ways and look at learning in different ways.”

In the NLA preschool classes, which either meet five days per week or three days per week on Monday, Wednesday and Friday, students utilize the iPads in a variety of ways.

Some of the iPad applications, or apps, students use help them practice writing, reading and math, and assist them in learning numbers and shapes.

They also use audio apps, where students are asked to identify sounds, and apps that record them in order to help practice their public speaking.

“With an iPad, you have so many different apps that you can use,” Groeneweg said. “They’re all doing something fun yet still learning. We’re always adding more apps to add to and enhance the program even more.”

Currently, the iPads include around 40 apps.

When the preschoolers first start using the iPads, Groeneweg said she has to spend some time teaching students how to use the devices, but a lot of students are already familiar with it.

“Some of them are so skilled in using an iPad that they know what they want to do, so it can be a challenge to keep them working on the same thing,” she said.

Groeneweg said some of the biggest benefits of the iPads in the classroom are that they allow students to do more hands on and be more independent.

“I think it’s neat for kids that really struggle with their attention,” she said. “It gives kids a different way to show us what they know and what they can learn.

“Every child is so different with their learning, you have to incorporate different ways to teach in your classroom.”

NLA teacher Jen Greener, who used iPads last year with the preschoolers, said she agrees the iPads greatly helped with students’ focus.

“They enjoy using it so it’s a neat way to capture their attention in a way that they know how to do,” she said.

Even though the iPads are a great addition to the classroom, Greener said, they are not a replacement for traditional learning.

“There really is a balance,” she said. “The use of technology isn’t doing away with everything because students still need to gain those fine motor skills by using the pencil and paper.

“I don’t think technology should be the primary focus of the classroom, but it should be used to supplement.”

However, the use of technology can only prove beneficial for students in the future, Greener said.

“The world is so technology driven,” she said, “and using the iPads is giving them skills that they are going to use for many years.

“We need to continue to evolve and change our classrooms.”

Amber Kispert-Smith

Amber Kispert-Smith has been the schools and Afton reporter at the Woodbury Bulletin since 2008. She holds a bachelor’s degree in journalism from the University of Minnesota. She previously worked as a reporter for Press Publications in White Bear Lake.

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