Northfield Community School teacher Sindy Baker is already planning how to use iPads with her second-graders.
"I'm thinking about doing a Reader Theater, where students can record each other reading, see what they are good at, and get feedback on their skills," she said. "I want to make it fun and interactive."
Baker was one of more than 250 educators who attended the free Padcamp at the Galloway Township Middle School on Thursday. Armed with smart phones and tablets, they shared free apps they have used and ideas on how to effectively use tablets in the classroom and for administrative work from grading student work to evaluating teachers.
As New Jersey moves toward new online state tests in 2014-15, the state Department of Education has been advising teachers to integrate technology into everyday learning so students will be comfortable taking the tests. But there are still plenty of concerns about whether districts will have enough updated technology available for the testing. Galloway Township Middle School is equipped with wireless, but with 250 teachers all downloading apps, the system did get sluggish.
Northfield school K-4 computer teacher Kevin Jarrett said teachers already have moved beyond finding apps that are fun. Now they want to know specifically how an app can help their students learn.
"They're past the cool app stage and want to get down to business," he said.
Betty Napoli, curriculum supervisor in Galloway Township, said teachers want to motivate students, but also to use the tablets to analyze student data.
The popularity of the tablet was overwhelming at this year's Padcamp, where only a few teachers used laptops. Even the kindergarten teachers were discussing apps for their students.
Wilmington, Del., kindergarten teacher Colleen Hoban said the key is moving away from apps that are just games, and finding those that require students to be creative and generate their own work. She said teachers can easily individualize work for students to do at home.
"Parents will ask what they can do at home, and I can give each child work based on their needs," she said.
Pinelands Regional supervisors Gina Frasca and Kim Tucker said they are looking for more ways to integrate technology into the current instruction. Some apps link directly to the national Common Core Standards adopted by New Jersey.
"We have noticed that attendance and student engagement are up on those days when teachers use technology," Tucker said.
Principal Lisa Arena and Assistant Principal Kristen Speakman from the Mennies School in Vineland said the workshops gave them lots of ideas to take back to the teachers. They sat in on one session using Edmodo and discussed how it might be used for classroom grading.
"Just being here is stimulating," Speakman said.
Pleasantville Middle School librarian Allison Abbate sat with a group of Camden teachers talking about how to give their students the most access to technology.
Abbate said some of her students do have smart phones, and she'd like to see them used for more than just games.
Camden High School teacher Inetta Emery agreed students don't know how to use their smart phones an educational away. She came to learn educational apps she can use to impress her students and get their attention.
"If you can show them something they haven't seen, you really are the cool teacher that day," she said.
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