For Lauren Wagner, a Life Skills teacher at IPS Thomas D. Gregg Elementary School 15, it’s the impact of technology.
Wagner’s students live with severe disabilities like Down syndrome, autism or traumatic brain injury. They range in age from 6 to 10. Their classes aim to improve vital life skills like cooking, personal hygiene and cleaning.
“I thought I was going to be the one most excited about getting iPads for our classroom,” Wagner says, “But when I told the kids, they were jumping up and down, clapping their hands and so excited.”
Wagner purchased her classroom’s four iPads, along with heavy-duty covers, in March 2013 after the Foundation connected her with funding through our matching grants on DonorsChoose.org program, and it has transformed how her students learn.
“I don’t have to fight as hard to get the kids engaged in what we’re doing,” Wagner says. “A worksheet is just a piece of paper, and they could really care less, but the iPad has completely changed their notion of learning”
And this change has led to stunning results.
“Some of my kids have gone from being essentially nonverbal to speaking 2-3 word sentences and engaging us in new ways,” Wagner says.
In some cases, the iPads literally provide a voice for students, giving them the ability to respond to their teachers by pressing certain icons on the tablet computers to make the iPads speak. For other students, the technology has coaxed out personalities, fostering a new willingness to interact.
Wagner says that what she’s seeing in her classroom is also happening at home, according to parents, who she communicates with on a nearly daily basis.
“This is why these technologies are a must-have, not a luxury,” Wagner says. “From building their capacity for learning to providing me better tools for assessment, the technology is leveling the playing field for my students.”
Wagner says she’s planning for a new grant to purchase a broader range of apps for the iPads, which she knows could unlock even more doors for her students.