By: Dr. Mark Richardson, Principal of Vestavia Hills Elementary East
I have the best job in the world. As principal of East Elementary, which is comprised of kindergarten through third grade, my job mostly involves doing all I can to help children to grow and be successful. This means that I need to support the folks who are working directly with the kids making it happen…the teachers. And what a fantastic group of teachers we have, constantly looking for ways to make instruction more meaningful and engaging for students.
Much of my day involves walking the halls, often on a mission to help someone, but occasionally simply visiting classrooms to take in all the learning that is taking place. Recently while visiting classrooms I witnessed the following:
Students using one of our iPad carts to research various countries and present their research using an app called Popplet. This is such an excellent, motivating, kid-friendly app. Each child had an iPad and was highly engaged in presenting their research. What I really thought was great was when students began uncovering some features of the app that they had not yet learned about. The teacher allowed the students to use the new features to enhance their presentation. Another teacher posted her class’ work online. You can view Catherine Bentley’s third grade Native American Popplets here: https://sites.google.com/a/vestavia.k12.al.us/bentleycm/pictures
Second-graders from Nancy Pearson’s class had read a Box-Car Children book and were creating instant multi-media book reports/reviews using another great iPad app called My Story. When I think about the hours I spent presenting the same information in a poster format when I was a kid, and how much more efficient and engaging this is, I wish we had had the same tools back in the 70s! You can view the children’s great work here: https://sites.google.com/a/vestavia.k12.al.us/pearson-s-pride/digital-books
Third-graders used iPads to post their daily blogs related to assignments in Angela Hollis’ gifted class. They especially like reviewing the Daily Visitor Stats. You can view the blogs here: https://sites.google.com/a/vestavia.k12.al.us/heroes/blogs
Our teachers in every grade continue to discover new ways that iPads may be used to enhance our teaching and make it more effective. We would not have such tools available, though, were it not for the efforts of the Foundation. Because of grants written by our teachers and awarded by the Foundation, we now have four iPad carts that may be checked out by teachers so that every child has an iPad in hand. We have received over $12,000 over the past three years from the Foundation for this purpose. Without this support, it is doubtful that the learning activities you see above would be happening with the frequency that they currently happen.
I do have the best job in the world, and one reason It’s the best is because of the community support of education, with the Vestavia Hills City Schools Foundation leading the way.