LAYTON — The teachers at Whitesides Elementary School are pretty sneaky.
As the students in Heather Minchey’s third-grade class acted like special agents on Tuesday afternoon and tried to figure out clues to help them fulfill their mission, they were really doing their schoolwork. The best part, for the students, was they were learning about measurements and other math skills by using an iPad.
“It’s nice to see the kids engaged in academics and they don’t even know it,” said Assistant Principal Mickie Pace.
Whitesides recently used Title I money, plus help from the community council, to purchase 135 iPads. Each of the school’s 20 teachers started with one, in order to become familiar with the tablet. Once the teachers were ready to introduce the iPad into the classrooms, each classroom received an additional five.
The school recently purchased 30 more, and a few classrooms, including Minchey’s, will get one iPad per student.
“The iPads are just so beneficial in so many ways,” Minchey said. “It allows us to bring the world into the classroom.”
Before their lunch, Minchey’s students were researching animals, but not the same way their teacher researched animals when she was their age.
“We can watch animals on the iPads,” said Jackson Skoubye, 8.
And not just watch, but learn about them.
“It tells you where they live and other stuff about the animals,” Isaac Hodapp, 8, said.
Principal Diane Cahoon said that because the school is so old, having opened in 1953, netbooks are not an option — there are not enough outlets in each classroom. With iPad batteries lasting at least 10 hours, and knowing the kids would not need much training on the popular device, school officials opted for the iPads.
Still, they wanted to make sure they were buying the iPads for the right reason.
“We didn’t want to buy iPads so they could play games on them,” Cahoon said.
Cahoon said the iPads have been beneficial for the special education classes, helping the students communicate and express their feelings in ways unavailable to them before.
Cahoon said 54 percent of the students come from homes below the poverty level, so a lot of them do not have iPads at home.
Minchey said her students are excited to use the new technology, but do not argue when it comes time to share with classmates. The best thing, the teacher said, is how quickly the students get feedback on their assignments.
She said, “They don’t hand me a test and have to wait a week to know how they did.”