Early one Thursday morning, kindergarten students at the Nathan Bohrer-Abraham Kaufman Hebrew Academy of Morris County in Randolph were busy tracing Hebrew letters.
“Kol hakavod, Jake,” called out a teacher as she circled around the table, watching each child to make sure they traced the letters on their iPad screens correctly.
Later, fifth-graders started multiplication drills on their iPads, trying to pop colorful balloons by correctly solving equations.
“It’s really fun and seems like I’m not in class,” said Gabriella Neibart, a fifth-grader from Morristown.
“Sometimes we have to go slower for other students. With this, we can go as fast as we want,” said classmate Gabriel Koresh of Bridgewater.
In December, HAMC introduced 18 iPads into the school for all grades and nearly every subject.
The Randolph school district provided the funding for the iPads, used in large part for differentiated instruction. The MetroWest Day School Initiative’s Quest for Teaching Excellence program, a project of the Jewish Community Foundation of MetroWest, funded the training for teachers providing instruction.
The school has an inclusive model, so there are students with Individualized Education Programs integrated into every classroom. The iPad, explained Cheryl Behar, dean of general studies, is one effective tool for managing the different levels of instruction needed in the learning environment.
“The project enables us to tier everything,” said Behar. “You can differentiate in so many ways with the iPads; you just choose different options. All the students are working at their own pace,” she added.
The new technology also eases the pressures of providing an assessment of academic performance. After just one five-minute math “game,” a teacher will know which students are proficient on a particular level and can advance to the next and which ones are stuck and need further work. Working on the iPad is “a lot less threatening than a test” for the students, said Behar.
So far, the school is using apps for just about every subject, from math to language arts to Hebrew and Tanach — but not serious essay writing in the middle school. Behar said she doesn’t like the app for writing, and that the middle school students already use laptops.
Behar thinks the iPads are the wave of the future.
“Eventually, textbooks will all be loaded on them,” she said. “Kids won’t be carrying around heavy knapsacks full of books, and kids will all have iPads. That’s the direction we’re going.”