With a swipe and a touch, Aimee Twohatchett showed her classmates at South High School how she successfully solved a polynomial equation.
First she sketched out the problem on an iPad, using a multicolored app called Educreations. Then Twohatchett hit the home screen and used AirDrop to wirelessly beam her work onto the classroom smart board so algebra teacher Stephanie Chippeaux could walk through it, step by step, with the rest of the class.
“Anything that keeps these kids engaged is a success,” Chippeaux said. “Any teacher who has decided they don’t have to change the way they do things or think outside the box is in a lot of trouble.”
This week, as part of American Education Week, the Wichita school district will host a “Five Schools in Five Days” event to showcase special programs or initiatives happening in classrooms throughout the district. Wichita is the largest district in Kansas, with more than 51,300 students in more than 90 school buildings.
Chippeaux’s second-hour college algebra students at South will demonstrate how they incorporate iPads into math lessons. Other schools will showcase magnet programs, bilingual education, pre-engineering courses and more.
Chippeaux also uses a modern teaching strategy known as a “flipped classroom,” in which students learn content online, usually at home, by watching video lectures and then work on problems in class with their teacher and classmates.
“All of class is work time,” she said. “We do an itty-bitty amount of notes at the beginning – maybe five minutes – but I’m almost never lecturing. They’re always working, talking, doing writing activities, reading activities.
“I gain like 40 minutes of class time just by cutting out the notes and having them watch those for homework.”
During a recent class, the students briefly reviewed how to solve monomial and polynomial equations and spent most of the hour sketching problems onto iPads and working them out.
“I like it because you don’t waste so much paper,” said senior Dakota Guthrie.
Chippeaux initially requested iPads for all her college algebra students so they could use them at home. That wasn’t in the budget, she said, but South High principal Cara Ledy requested and received 60 iPad Minis for this year’s pilot project – one set of 30 for math classes and another set for language arts classes.
Since Apple released its first iPad in 2010, the devices have been popular in classrooms. Teachers use them to access interactive textbooks, FaceTime with experts in various fields, watch films from the Library of Congress, share video tutorials or listen to podcasts.
Using the Educreations app, Chippeaux’s students at South High record videos of themselves working and talking through math equations, which deepens their understanding of the mathematical concepts.
“Research shows you can retain 90 percent of what you learn if you can verbalize it,” she said. “So having them speak it, talk through it, increases the retention.”
During the last few minutes of class, Chippeaux uses the Socrative app to gauge how well students understand the material. One recent morning, a three-question poll asked students to describe their level of understanding – “totally get it,” “mostly get it,” etc. – describe one thing they learned in the class and share one thing they still struggle with.
“This tells me they kind of got it, but they probably need more practice,” Chippeaux said as she reviewed the report on her laptop. “It’s really cool because then I get a feel for what they understand and don’t understand.”
Before the iPads, Chippeaux would ask students to give a thumbs-up, thumbs-down or thumb-sideways at the end of class to describe their level of understanding. But some students are too embarrassed to be truthful in that sort of public poll, she said.
“I don’t know that I would have been the kid that raised my hand,” she said. “This way it’s totally private, and they can say, ‘Hey, I’m not getting this.’ It’s a little bit safer for them.”
Chippeaux said incorporating iPads into her math lessons has been challenging because it takes time to find apps, experiment with them and figure out how best to use them in class. It also means having students check the devices out of and back into the locked charging station every day.
“It’s been hard work,” she said. “But what isn’t?
“We’re all learning a lot doing this, and it’s definitely been worth it.”
If you go
Five Schools in Five Days
What: The Wichita school district will mark American Education Week by inviting people to visit classrooms and learn about programs and initiatives.
When and where: Superintendent John Allison will host events at five schools: Monday, 3 p.m., Earhart Environmental Magnet Elementary (magnet program, efficient school design); Tuesday, 8:30 a.m., South High School (iPad initiative); Wednesday, 9 a.m., Coleman Middle School (AVID college-prep program); Thursday, 2 p.m., Horace Mann Dual Language K-8 Magnet (dual language learning); and Friday, 1 p.m., West High (pre-engineering program, 3-D printers).
How much: Free.
Information: For more information or to RSVP for one of the sessions, call the district’s marketing and communications office, 316-973-4515.