6:11 a.m. PDT April 8, 2016
The North Marion School District is doing something most schools only dream of.
The district is supplying iPads and programs for all third-through eighth-graders.
The district has four schools, with about 2,000 students in total. About 66 percent of its students are considered to be living in poverty.
By making technologically enhanced classrooms a priority in the district, money was dedicated to the project from the general budget. The district also received a few grants to help with the funding.
It began when the fifth-grade teachers advocated for devices for the students. The teachers thought students were at an age when they could responsibly care for the devices.
Some devices are available to K-2 classes and ninth-graders as well. Administrators said they would like to make the project a district-wide initiative eventually.
By incorporating the technology, the district aims to help close the achievement gap and provide students with the opportunity to guide their own learning experience.
The district said the project helps to empower students by “providing them the skills and knowledge they need to thrive in the modern world, instilling the habits they need to be successful, fostering the curiosity and desire to learn, and creating independent … learners.”
And there’s no doubt these students have taken well to the program.
Kaden Levine, 12, Stanley Ruchin, 12, and Basily Anfilofieff, 11, spoke to the Statesman Journal about the projects they’ve been working on in their STEM-centered (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) class.
While they learn the more traditional aspects of STEM disciplines, these students have done projects such as making a heart stent to be used for a clogged artery, or designing and building a prosthetic leg out of cleaning materials.
Other students are using Google Classroom and Google Drive to create presentations and stop-motion videos to teach other students math processes, Internet responsibility and more.
“It is much more interactive and fun,” Levine said.
The students and district faculty and staff got to show off the initiative at their annual Empowered Up! event Thursday; 29 educators, technology experts and more attended the event, including representatives from Apple and the International Society of Technology in Education.
Cory Gaub and Spring Chang of the district said attendees left enthusiastic about what they saw and the possibility of them doing it elsewhere.
“It was a really, really cool morning,” said Chang, the elementary instructional coach of the district. “Sometimes we forget this is not happening in other places, so it’s cool to see it from the lens of other people.”
What attendees saw, Gaub said, was students becoming the drivers of their own education.
“These students will be moving into fields not yet created,” he said. “This (technology) is connecting their lives now with what their futures may be.”
Last year was the district’s inaugural Empowered Up! event. Chang and Gaub said they have definitely faced plenty of challenges along the way, but now the program has hit its stride, they can see how much it positively affects the students.
They said they see the students are more independent and confident.
For instance, one of the students who presented at the event Thursday is a “frequent flyer” in the principal’s office, Chang said. Yet, when he presented, she said it was like seeing another student.
Gaub said some of these students have never had something that is just theirs, like the iPads they now have.
“Your mind goes to all the doors that this could open,” he said.
For more information, contact Spring Chang at 503-678-8204 or go to www.nmarion.k12.or.us.