COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. - The first bell sounded in schools across District 49 Thursday.
Students and parents will see changes in leadership and teaching tools across the district. There are new principals leading five schools in the district. Some students will almost see a heavier emphasis on technology in their classrooms.
Technology is quickly becoming an essential tool in Colorado classrooms. Falcon Elementary School will utilize more tablets more often in its classrooms. Skyview Middle School is extending its iPad program to a select group of sixth-grade students.
This is the iPad program's second year. Last year, 150 eighth-grade students were randomly chosen for its pilot program. The school received more funding for the program and purchased 150 additional iPads for a group of incoming sixth-grade students.
Three of Skyview Middle School's feeder schools utilized iPads in one of their fifth grade classes. Those same students will be a part of the middle school's iPad program. The remainder were selected at random.
A team of eighth-grade teachers lead the school's first iPad program last year. They said they've learned a lot since the program rolled out last year. It's given them better insight into the way their students learn and what classrooms will look like in the future.
"Last year was very new and exciting but we knew there was a lot to learn and sometimes we were one or two steps ahead of the kids and this year I feel miles ahead of the kids," said language arts teacher Desiree Streib.
She was initially hesitant about incorporating technology into her classroom.
"I'm a little more old school then some of the other teachers, I'm all about paper and pencil and that was something I had to learn a lot about last year," said Streib.
Streib and the other eighth-grade teachers agree iPads in the classroom help them better cater to the needs of each student. The teachers said it gives students more avenues to expand their creativity and rejuvenates their excitement for learning.
"It allows us to individualize instruction so that one student who has some needs in one area can be working on an application that will practice some skills for them while another student who doesn't need that kind of practice can be working on something else," said Skyview Middle School Principal Cathy Tinucci.
The teachers admit new technology comes with a learning curve. iPads brought new challenges into the classroom. These shiny new toys are an easy distraction.
"(Students) can use it quickly. They have a natural knack for just the device itself, what they don't have is the ability to focus," said Tinucci. "We have to spend a significant amount of time teaching kids how to communicate professionally, that its not okay to write bad things in an email, it's okay to sit in class and have emails going back and forth behind the teacher's back."
The school will purchase more iPads as more money becomes available.
"This is where kids are going so we need to meet them where they are at," said Tinucci.