School board learns how tech grant benefits MMS science classroom

MARSHALL – Marshall School Board members had the opportunity to practice dissecting frogs at the work session meeting Monday.

The frogs weren’t real, but rather, they were digital images displayed on new iPads in Carrie Sueker’s classroom.

Just prior to the 2013-14 school year, Sueker, a seventh-grade science teacher at Marshall Middle School, received 30 iPads as part of a TIGERSS (Technology Integration Generating Education and Real Student Success) grant from within the district.

“It’s worked out great,” Sueker said. “It’s made such a difference in the way I teach, and I want to keep on improving.”

During the presentation Monday, Sueker had board members sit alongside seventh-grade volunteers – Allie Kock, Kaia Sueker, Brooklyn Sukalski, Katie Polzin, Ammran Mohamed, Ben Leek, Ignacio Larios and Dakota Edens.

“My main goals, when I wrote this grant, was to increase student interest and engagement and to impact student achievement,” Carrie Sueker said. “The kids pick up things so quickly. We probably lost a little bit of science time at first, but they’ve gotten better and better.”

After showing board members how students can project their screen images onto the SMART Board, Sueker then explained how she had created a flex book.

“I was asked to create a flex book about a year and a half ago,” she said. “I tweaked it the way I wanted it. You can look up lots of things.”

When using the digital textbook, students can have the text read to them in a variety of languages and accents.

“You can change the language and have it read to you in Spanish or in an Australian accent,” Sueker said. “The kids get a kick out of changing it to a British accent, too.”

The seventh-graders then shared their knowledge about the learning management system, which allows students to send quizzes and other activities digitally to the teacher. Since students recently took a quiz on dissecting frogs, Sueker had board members take a practice test as well.

“We do a real frog dissection, too, but we also have an app that can interact with the students beforehand,” Sueker said. “Kids have said they feel more comfortable before they start the actual dissection.”

On the iPad, board members went through the step-by-step process, making appropriate slices where indicated on the frogs.

Another aspect the fifth- through eighth-grade science students have had available is Science Study Island, Sueker said.

“It helps for the state tests,” she said. “Our district has been using Study Island in math and reading before but now we added science. So the kids are working through practice tests and activities.”

Sueker said she especially likes the ability to load different activities on student accounts, individualizing the learning process.

“I have the ability to add a modified test for a student, and nobody else in the classroom would know,” she said. “I can also load different applications for a student working at a lower grade level. It’s nice to be able for them to work where they’re at. It’s just another way to individual learning.”

After the presentation, the middle school students shared what they liked about the iPads.

“I like that I can turn in assignments easily,” Mohamed said. “You don’t have to worry about losing them.”

Edens said he thought using iPads was an “easier format” for learning.

Kock said she appreciated not having to wait in line to use the classroom computers.

“We have our own now,” Kock said. “We don’t have to fight over the two computers here.”

Leek said he likes the compactness of an iPad.

“You don’t have to carry around a big binder,” he said. “You just have an iPad.”

While different classes of students currently have to share the science iPads, Sueker is hopeful that each student will have his/her own iPad one day, allowing learning to occur more often outside the classroom as well.

“According to a survey we took, there are a few that still prefer the paper and pencil method,” she said. “But 98 percent said they prefer using the iPad.”

The board also had its first reading of policy review at the meeting. Some of those included policies about public and private personnel data, mandated reporting of child neglect or physical or sexual abuse, chemical use and abuse, student attendance, student dress and appearance, student discipline, curriculum development, staff development for standards, student activity accounting and many others.

“These are policies that need updating after a legislative session,” Marshall Superintendent Klint Willert said.

Willert asked for board feedback about the recent enrollment study and Energy Services Group (ESG) Improvement information.

“There’s pretty compelling evidence that suggests we have some planning to do,” Willert said about the enrollment study presented the other week by a former demographer. “The next step could involve seeking community members to serve on a study commission. I think we’d be remiss is we didn’t followup with community dialogue.”

Board members agreed.

“I think we need community input, so it’s not just us,” board member Karen VanKeulen said.

When asked, business director Bruce Lamprecht said the district is nearing capacity at the elementary level.

“We’re filled to the gills at Park Side,” he said. “And we will be at West Side by next year.”

After some discussion, it was decided that Willert should contact an architectural firm so they could be part of the discussion.

“It’s a big conversation,” he said. “And we just saw the presentation by Dr. Sueker. I think that’s just the tip of the iceberg on what’s out there for student learning. That needs to be part of a broader conversation. We need to decide what we want our student learning process to look like.”

In regards to the ESG Improvement plan, Willert said two questions needed to be answered.

“We need to decide what we should fund in terms of energy savings and secondly, how we fund it,” he said. “We need to determine which projects we should take a look at.”

In the plan, it was noted that West Side and MMS had the most improvements to be made, including equipment and equipment replacement.

“Obviously being newer, Marshall High School is in good shape,” Willert said. “That leaves MMS, West Side and Park Side. West Side has the most needs. There’s not much noted at Park Side and there were renovations done at MMS 10 years ago.”