North Hills teachers learn how to incorporate 'iPads in the Classroom'



Published: Wednesday, February 5, 2014 9:01 p.m.
Updated 7 hours ago

Nearly 30 teachers from the North Hills School District returned to the classroom on a Saturday last month to learn about iPad tablet technology and how it can enhance student achievement.

As part of the school district’s ongoing professional-development series, the four-hour session — titled “iPads in the Classroom” — introduced teachers to the iPad tablet; explored various applications, or apps; demonstrated how teachers can design their own learning activities on the device; and helped those in attendance set short- and long-term goals for implementing iPad technology into their classrooms.

This is the third year in which North Hills has offered professional-development classes, which have been held after school, on weekends or online.

Previous sessions have included CPR, drug-abuse awareness and student motivation, as well as courses designed to enhance teachers’ overall wellness — such as fitness, nutrition, and financial planning, according to Johannah Vanatta, assistant superintendent for secondary education.

“All North Hills teachers have to complete 50 hours of professional development per year, and we require them to take four hours of these classes per semester to help fulfill that obligation,” said Vanatta, of Taylorstown, Washington County.

Teachers provide suggestions on what kind of classes they want and need.

“What makes the program so special is that our own teachers are the ones who bring the expertise to their colleagues. This helps make for a real camaraderie throughout the district,” Vanatta said.

The tablet class was offered at McIntyre Elementary for educators teaching kindergarten through the sixth grade and at the high school for those teaching grades seven through 12.

Elizabeth Spicer, library and media specialist at McIntyre Elementary, co-led the class designed for elementary-school teachers.

“The district has at least 38 iPad tablets in each of its school buildings. These iPads can be used for anything ranging from research to math programs to linguistic learning tools for English,” said Spicer, 56, of Richland Township.

Stefanie Tumbas, library and media specialist at West View Elementary, co-led the class with Spicer.

“Kids love (the iPads) and are excited about them. Kids are pretty intuitive when it comes to using them. But we still have to teach them how to interpret the information they can get from this technology and how to best utilize it,” said Tumbas, 30, of Pittsburgh’s Bloomfield neighborhood.

North Hills High School science teachers Jackie Karenbauer and Jennifer DiPasquale — winners of a Carnegie Science Award from the Carnegie Science Center in Pittsburgh for their development of a biology curriculum that uses iPad tablets to get students excited about science — led the session on incorporating iPad tablets into secondary classrooms.

“We showed teachers how to use iPads as a teaching resource and tool,” said DiPasquale, 40, of Hampton Township.

Laurie Rees is a freelance writer for Trib Total Media.

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