ENGLEWOOD - Six weeks ago, Cerri Norris made a major change to her classroom. She introduced her students to the iPads they will use all year and a learning method they'll use potentially through their academic careers.
"There's so many apps we can use for reading and writing and math," Norris said. "So, I'm really excited."
9News is following a 1st grade class at Cherrelyn Elementary in Englewood throughout the school year to explore a variety of educational issues in a project called "Class of 2025". This class is part of the Englewood School District's initiative to provide iPads to every student in the school district from kindergarten through 8th grade.
"I think I'm very lucky to be in a district that's using this technology right away," Norris said.
Cherrelyn Elementary Principal Eva Pasciewicz says this is a new chapter in her school as well for all the educators.
"It's very exciting, challenges the teachers in different ways, challenges me as a leader to help the teachers," Pasciewicz said.
Pasciewicz also believes this a program that especially benefits the students at her school and around the Englewood community.
"Our kids come from a lower socio-economic background and they don't have much access to many books at home," Pasciewicz said. "So, for the students who are able to take the iPads home, it gives them a wide variety of library books to choose from when they are at home."
Pasciewicz says the online library contains more than 6,000 titles which older students can have access to by bringing their iPads with them. The younger students through are not allowed to take their iPads home.
In fact, students from kindergarten through 2nd grade have to use iPads that are contained in a large, protective case with a screen guard.
"And, they have a handle which is nice cause we were concerned about kids carrying their iPads," Norris said.
During the first day, students in Norris' class were enthralled by their devices.
"It is so quiet," Norris said.
Six weeks later, the students have come little experts on how to use the different apps on the iPads in multiple subjects, according to Norris.
"It's been going really well," Norris said. "We're all learning together how to use these iPads."
It has not gone without it's hitches. At first, connectivity was an issue at times.
"I'll practice something at home. It will work well. I'll bring it into class. I'll try it with everybody and then there'll be a glitch. Something will go wrong," Norris said. "So, (the students) have gotten very good at learning to go with the flow."
Other concerns such as too much screen time at home and at school have surfaced, as well, Principal Pasciewicz says. But, she says it's up to parents to manage iPad time at home and up to teachers like Norris to provide a balance in the classroom.
"We break it up quite a bit," Norris said. "So, we try to iPads and then come back to the carpet, read a real book, have a real discussion."
Evan Rouse, a first grader, says the iPad helps him learn better.
"It's like my favorite thing to do," Evan said. "Play lots of subtraction and math games."
Halie Steed says she likes classes better with the iPads.
"It's fun," Halie said. "We get to do math problems and we get to write stuff."
But, it has also been an evolution for Norris and other teachers.
"It's definitely a little bit harder than I expected," Norris said. "Trying to integrate them to all of our instruction, there's so many options."
Pasciewicz says the first year of any new program is always a challenge.
"We had some issues at the beginning just trying to work out some bugs, but at this time, everything is working smoothly," Pasciewicz said. "Our 5th and 6th grade teachers use them daily almost the entire class time."
The district was able use bond money left over from a bond election approved 10 years ago specifically for technology to pay for the iPad program.
The Morgridge Family Foundation also granted another $100,000 in support.
So far, all the iPads have survived.
"We have had a few drop already, luckily they're in those nice blue cases and those cases have been working out well," Norris said.
(KUSA-TV © 2013 Multimedia Holdings Corporation)