Eileen Haggard's second-graders at Stonewall Elementary were studying polygons one morning last week, a lesson that required them to draw examples of the geometric shapes and then render them in bright colors.
No paper, pencils or crayons were anywhere in sight.
Instead, the students did all their work on iPad tablet computers.
By using their fingers like pencils, the kids could draw polygons on the iPad screens. A tap on the screen could then turn the polygons the colors of the students' choosing.
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Through a grant from the school district, Stonewall received about 70 iPads in February, enough to equip two classrooms of second-graders and two more classes of third-graders. Principal Bill Gatliff said the small computers already have become a key education component in the four rooms that are using them.
Each of the classrooms has about 17 iPads, which remain in the rooms. Students have access to them only when doing specific lessons.
Haggard, a 22-year teaching veteran, said the small computers have "totally changed my classroom."
"We're using them in all areas of instruction," she said. "I think they're a great resource for the students."
At least six other Fayette elementary schools are using iPads in one way or another. More than 500 of the computers are in use across the Fayette County school district, officials said. Students use them to draw figures and write reports. Administrators use them to record notes as they conduct "walk through" classroom visits. And the uses keep expanding.
Henry Clay High School is planning to experiment with using iPads instead of math textbooks in one of its Algebra I classes during the later part of the school year. The changeover will start as soon as the tablet computers arrive and can be programmed with the appropriate algebra application, or app, said Lauren Southern, who teaches the class.
"Instead of kids carrying textbooks around, they'll use the iPad with the apps right there on it ready to go," Southern said. "We don't know where this is going yet. But I could kind of see it moving to where every subject has a textbook on the iPad someday."
Whether computers will ever replace textbooks is anybody's guess. But the Fayette County Board of Education has said it wants to introduce more and more technology into instruction.
At Stonewall, second- and third-graders use iPads for reading, writing, spelling, playing educational math games and a bit of everything in between. In Haggard's class, students studied various kind of landmasses, then demonstrated what they'd learned by writing reports on their iPads and illustrating them with color images that they could pull from a folder in the computers.
Student Chloe Chambers, 8, used her iPad to write a small book about animals she'd studied. Afterward, she decided the book needed a table of contents. With the little computer, that was no problem.
"I like using the iPad very, very much," Chloe said. "We use them now more than we write with a pencil."
Hiroshi Hunter, also 8, said he likes to use his iPad to play a word game called "spellatorium." Also, he likes a function that lets him type in a word, and immediately see its definition.
"I can't get over the change," Haggard said. "The iPads allow the kids to be creative. They decide their projects, instead of the teacher dictating things. If the project needs a picture, they're choosing the app. I do the orchestrating, but they're in control."
Lavon Cress, who is using iPads in her third-grade class at Stonewall, said she has seen similar changes among her students.
"With the iPads, the level of engagement just skyrocketed," Cress said. "The students were immediately engaged in activities; there was no buying in. And they tell me they are learning more because they're more interested and enjoying what they're doing."
Stonewall Principal Gatliff said the iPads have gone over so well that he'd like to add more next year if funding allows.