Technology fosters learning

| Wednesday, Jan. 2, 2013, 9:40 p.m.

Six-year-old Adam Moreland uses a stylus pen to carefully trace the letters of a word on an iPad screen. His tongue is pressed against the corner of his mouth as he concentrates. When he finishes the “d,” the iPad dings to signal his success.

Tracing letters is just one way teacher Liane Uliano-Smith has incorporated a classroom iPad into lessons in her kindergarten classroom at R.K. Mellon Elementary School in Ligonier Valley School District.

The device is part of a family of electronic tablets that allow for accessing the Internet or using a variety of applications or programs ranging from map tools to video recording and editing to games.

Uliano-Smith also has directed her students to illustrate story books to later be animated into a movie, using an application called Toon Tastic. She has taken video for students to create their own stories, based on other books read in class.

“When they narrate a story, and then we watch it, they hear the words back in their own voices. It helps with their understanding,” Uliano-Smith said.

Fifth-grade teacher Kristin Johnston said the devices also have enhanced learning in her classroom.

Her students use iPads and iPod Touches to perform reading comprehension activities and use polling apps to give Johnston feedback on their understanding of new concepts.

In November, students broke into groups. Some students settled into a corner of the classroom and used their fingers to draw a summary of a recent book they had read, while narrating. Others used the devices to look up unfamiliar words with a dictionary app.

Last year, students created nonfiction electronic books for first-graders on famous artists.

“With the devices, I think students are more engaged,” Johnston said. “It's so fun for them, they don't even realize they're learning.”

Johnston said her students continue to use their own devices at home to play educational games such as Words with Friends, an app based on the Scrabble board game.

Superintendent Chris Oldham said this is just the beginning for the use of technology in the classroom.

“I really see that as we become more adept at the educational applications and uses, the opportunities to create incredible levels of engagement will expand into being able to really diversify instruction to meet student needs, as well as to provide them with virtual experiences that they would never be able to encounter without the integration of this technology,” she said.

Fifth-grader McKenna Rummel, 10, said using the iPad to draw and narrate chapter books helps her get more out of the book than just reading it straight through.

“It helps you really understand what's happening, because you have to explain it,” she said.

And couldn't she just draw and write out a chapter summary on paper?

“This is more fun,” she said, grinning and holding up the iPad.

Uliano-Smith is using one iPad in her classroom that was donated by the Ligonier Valley Education Trust, while Johnston's goal for her older students is to get a device in every child's hands.

She currently has five iPads and four iPods Touches, most of which were donated by the Quatrini Rafferty law firm or through individual contributions coordinated by Other students have permission to bring in their personal devices.

“This is our future — these devices, this technology. If I don't jump on board and meet them, then I'm not doing my job, which is to prepare them for jobs that aren't even created yet,” Johnston said.

Jewels Phraner is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 724-850-1218 or

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