"The students' lives outside of school are very quickly paced because they're watching videos or playing video games or using an iPad with that 'instant' factor," Fowler said. "We can no longer teach in the 'read, do the questions at the end, take the test' way. We can't teach that way. Our students don't learn that way."
Fowler's point of view is one that has taken hold at the county level. Beginning in January, Putnam County Schools will begin to implement a "bring your own device" policy in select classrooms in every school. The three fifth-grade classrooms at West Teays will be part of the initiative, and while other schools might struggle to supplement students who do not have a device, Fowler said West Teays has two mobile labs with 30 laptops in each that she hopes will ensure no student goes without.
Fowler said every classroom has at least one iPad that teachers are allowed to carry with them -- something she believes will ultimately help them become more comfortable with the device.
"I wanted to make sure every teacher had one, and I wanted to make sure every teacher took it home," she said. "If they wanted to do their banking on it, do it, because that makes them more comfortable with using the machine. Write emails on it, bank on it, do your shopping on it -- but you also have to use it in the classroom."
According to Tharp, West Virginia schools are ahead of the curve in at least one respect: Legislation has mandated that every school in the state have Internet connectivity. The center also holds seminars on affording and creating a sustainable model for devices, and while Tharp acknowledges the initial cost for devices is expensive, she said understanding their upkeep and capability can allow schools to have tools that are far more engaging than textbooks.
"We've had administrators who have been very creative in thinking, 'OK, my textbook fund is going to cost me thousands of dollars, and they're already out of date by the time they get delivered and we have to use them for 10 years,'" Tharp said. "Instead, we can invest $400 in an iPad and have online, digital textbooks."
For Fowler, the inclusion of the iPads in her school's curriculum is just one way she hopes to diversify learning at West Teays. Beginning next semester, the school will introduce "No Worksheet Wednesday" to encourage teachers to think outside the box during instruction.
"We used an app today called "tetrominoes," and we're going to use it in tutoring, because some students are having trouble with turning and flipping and sliding shapes into the right spots; it helps them to get the concept of the difference between a turn and a flip," said Amy Julian, a fifth-grade teacher at the school. "What's been the biggest help for me is being able to bring home what I've been trying to teach them in the classroom and can't show them two-dimensionally."
The WVCPD plans to hold its next series of iPad Basic Training sessions in the spring. The center will hold training sessions on the following days, which are subject to change: Feb. 20 in Barboursville; March 5 and 6 in Martinsburg; March 13 in Bridgeport; March 20 in Charleston; April 1 in Morganton; and April 10 in Elkins. For more information or to register for an event, visit www.wvcpd.org.
Reach Lydia Nuzum at lydia.nu...@wvgazette.com or 304-348-5189.