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HORSHAM (April 30, 2014) — “Who was the main character in the story?” Mr. Bill Whiteside would ask of his second grade students. The answer often varied depending on the student – and their level of reading comprehension. To help improve this important skill, Bill applied to the Hatboro-Horsham Educational Foundation in 2012 for an Innovative Learning Grant. He was awarded the grant – and now has 20 iPad minis and safety covers for his classroom.

“I love trying new things – and especially love technology,” shared Bill. “I believe it is an integral part of our future. Being proficient in technology is an important life skill for students in the classroom because it is a more engaging learning tool.” To ensure that each of his 25 students is using the latest tools, he has six desktop computers in the classroom and the children rotate between these and the iPads.

Bill’s grant is designed to help enhance the learning experience for second graders. He has improved reading comprehension using the iPads, because students can select their own books from an approved list. At the end of each story, they participate in a reading comprehension test. With this tool, Bill can easily identify which students need reading support, and which ones may be ready for a more challenging book. For math, Bill uses the program, “First in Math” on the iPads.

“With the grant, I hope to learn and discover new ways to improve the learning process,” explained Bill. “Students currently use the internet but I’d like to figure out how to use iPads for everything in the classroom.” He admits that the iPads have opened the doors to student engagement and independent practice. “The students work in small groups which gives me more individualized teaching time.”

Bill believes the parents are benefiting from the technology too. Using an app called “Spelling City,” he has uploaded all of the spelling lists for the year. “I don’t have to print lists each week and hope they make it home. The parents know exactly where to look to find the words and students can work ahead if they desire.”

The most noticable area that has improved is reading. Bill believes that with self-selection of titles, the students are more interested in reading. “I can find new and unique ways to teach the children, based on their strengths. Through online tools, data is instant. It saves me time and makes me a better teacher.”

Education was a fundamental part of life for Bill as he grew up. His mother, Janet, has been a teacher at Keith Valley Middle School for 19 years. Bill has been teaching in the Hatboro-Horsham School District for eight years since 2006 at Simmons Elementary School. He was then transferred to Blair Mill Elementary School last year and is currently teaching second grade.

Bill’s colleagues in the district, Kyle Milbran and David Shinton, are working on creative ways to integrate technology into the entire school – not just second grade. For instance, Bill currently uses RAZ Kids to download books but only has enough licenses for the second grade. He’d like to grow the program so that all elementary students have the opportunity for more engaging learning.

About the Hatboro-Horsham Educational Foundation

HHEF (www.hhef.org) is a nonprofit organization that provides funding for programs that enhance the learning experience of our students and engage the community at large.

Editors’ note: If you are interested in access to these photos, or taking your own for a story, please contact Lisa Bailey at 215-872-5846 or lisabroidabailey@gmail.com.