Medford schools tech up on iPads

Educators hope devices provided by grants can help in science classes

Thanks to recent grants and donations, Medford schools have snagged scores of new iPads and are starting to use them for STEM — Science, Technology, Engineering, Math — and for English Language Learning and even robotics.

A STEM grant of $50,000 came from the Oregon Department of Education, along with foundation grants and donations, allowing the district to purchase 70 iPads, along with apps and charging carts for McLoughlin Middle School in Medford and after-school programs at Kids Unlimited, said Terri Dahl, supervisor of federal programs and school improvement for Medford Schools.

Teachers from Apple came down from Portland to get Medford instructors up to speed, at no charge, she notes.

"The focus is on making science teachers and scientists for the 21st century," said Dahl, noting that the district has now received three major grants totaling more than $140,000 for similar missions.

An English Language Learner grant will enable the teaching of ELL for parents and students using iPads and the Rosetta Stone software, with free apps from Apple, Dahl says.

The third grant supports Talented and Gifted after-school programs, says Dahl, and the mobile iPad charging carts allow the devices to be wheeled from school to school.

The funds also purchased 50 robotic kits to allow the building and programming of toy robots, which students will use in competitions.

"The value is to promote the use and understanding of technologies and a high level of thinking skills, problem solving and working together as a team on tasks," Dahl said. "It promotes science and technology professions for career development, so more students can become science teachers and pursue careers in science."

A main focus, said Dahl, who wrote the grants, is getting ELL students and parents proficient in English and getting girls into science, an often-neglected goal.

John Darling is a freelance writer living in Ashland. Email him at jdarling@jeffnet.org.


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