Trinity Lutheran School students get interactive on iPads

REED CITY — Although the weather outside was downright cold and rainy last week, and what with the heating boiler out at Trinity Lutheran School too, there was certainly a warm feeling inside. Some grant money and donations made it possible for every child in the seventh and eighth grade to now have access to an iPad.

According to Sherry Prange, Trinity’s principal, “We just got them two weeks ago, and the children are so excited. So much of the learning today can come in the form of games and video things, and these are wonderful tools for learning.”

She said it was explained at a conference that, “the back of our brain lights up when we’re learning something, but for children today, it is the front that lights up. Learning has to be different for the children today, not just written up on chalkboards.

Also the seventh grade teacher said, “The first day I let them keep their iPads for an hour and a half, and not a sound could be heard. They were so absorbed, and they can learn such things as math and chemistry and English easily on them. They have faith-building things on them and the sky’s the limit. There’s no limit to what they can have access to” regarding their education through this means.

She noted that at one conference recently, there are “laptops that won’t have a keyboard. It will shine down on your desk and you use the desktop as your keyboard.” She added that they were shown a “watch” that contained all the components for the internet, and another the size of a button.

Prange said, “We’re trying to build on what we have,” adding iPads and projectors eventually in every room, along with mimeo boards that turn a “white board into an interactive tool. Students today love to interact, and move about. We are just way ahead of so many other schools, but it will prepare our students faster to keep up with the future as well.”

She said achievement scores are in the 82nd percentile, “and we’re consistent from the lower levels up.”

Part of that success comes from the teaching of procedures early on, she explained. “In our lower grades, they take the time to teach procedures,” she said, explaining that it includes such things as raising a hand to talk, knowing they must walk in the halls, “and they learn from the little ones on up that they must work without disrespecting one another.

“So by the time they’re in the seventh and eighth grade, I am not dealing with discipline problems any more. Our focus is on learning, interacting, and gaining skills. Children can’t slip through the cracks. If they don’t do their homework, they stay after school and do it. Their parents come pick them up.”

She said it’s not looked upon as discipline as much as it is learning to do what one is supposed to do, and then having the freedom to do something else as well. Having “detention” to complete homework isn’t nearly as enjoyable as going home to play with friends, for instance.

The school is “not just for Lutherans,” she said. “Any child is welcome. If the family can’t afford for their child to come here, they need to talk to the principal. You don’t have to belong to this church. We welcome any child.

“We’re looking at a parenting class in the spring, and whatever we can do to help families, we really want to do. We care for them when life is good, and when life is falling apart. Last year so many people helped our families get through Christmas. Often it’s parents helping other parents, families helping families.”

She paused. “I think God gives you resources and you are so richly blessed, then as you get older, He takes them away. Sometimes your health, your finances, things you thought you needed, and does it so you’re dependent on Him for all you need, and you know it. You know He is what you really need.”

Right now, the seventh and eighth graders “have it all. Or so it seems now. The iPads? A little bit came from grant money, but a great share came from private donors. We want to build a new school up by our new church. We need other things paid off. My next goal I have is for our fifth and sixth graders to have iPads, then I would love for that all the way down to first and second graders.

“Those things would be nice, but a great portion of it all is how to use the gifts that God gives you. At the present time, the “old church” next door has been rented out “to a man who wanted to start a church. We have some storage there, but some day, we will move to our new school.” Have iPads for everyone, homework done, keyboards reflected onto desktops. One day at a time. She said it’s a blessing in itself that the old boiler went out in this weather. Little heaters suffice. Parts scarce, if at all. Nearly ready. Now, had it gone out mid-winter … but it didn’t. Thanks be.