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Little Falls gets REAL about iPad technology

LITTLE FALLS — Monday will be a day to remember for the Little Falls Community High School since it was the day that all the students in grades five through 12 were handed iPads.

Little Falls administrators believe their school district is one of the first public school districts in the United States to implement a ratio of one digital device per student. The neighboring Crosby-Ironton School District purchased iPads for its fifth- and sixth-graders this school year.

“Our world will be dominated by technology,” Superintendent Curt Tryggestad said Monday during the district’s Project REAL kickoff ceremony in front of fifth- through 12th-graders in the gymnasium.

 “You have to understand that this is just not for the kids looking at college, it is for everyone. We want to give you this opportunity to use the knowledge you learn and use it in the real world with this application. With this application comes responsibility and my challenge to you is are you as responsible as a fifth- grader?”

Last school year, the district had two fifth-grade classrooms using iPads as a pilot project. The district had only one iPad that was damaged at the end of the school year. This school year the district purchased 1,450 iPads as part of the district’s Project REAL, which stands for Resources to Engage All Learners.

Tryggestad said there have been public comments through the radio stations and newspapers that have been negative about the district purchasing the iPads.

“People are watching you and waiting for us to fail,” said Tryggestad. “They’re waiting to see if you can handle it and we believe you can handle it.

“You are going to be tempted to use it inappropriately and I say just say no. Use common sense. Please use it wisely and don’t bring shame to you, your family, the community. There is pride in being from Little Falls and being a Flyer.”

Minnesota Department of Education Commissioner Brenda Cassellius spoke to the students. When Tryggestad introduced Cassellius, he presented her with a Little Falls Flyers sweatshirt.

Cassellius said so many times teachers have said that they have to enter the 21st century in learning, but they’ve never gotten there. She said Little Falls is going there with the Project REAL initiative with the support of the superintendent, school board, teachers, parents and the community.

“We’ll be watching you, Little Falls,” said Cassellius. “And the rest of Minnesota will be watching you and learning how it’ll help teachers across the state.”

Sen. Paul Gazelka, R-Brainerd, told the students that they’re being given an incredible opportunity and they’ll have to show the rest of the state how to do it. Gazelka said using the iPads as another tool for education is a good thing. Gazelka said he has a smartphone and he had to have his children help him download music and other applications. He said the students and staff will have to work together with the iPads to show each other how to do things.

Tryggestad said the staff went through training on the iPads and went through more than a thousand applications to download the ones they wanted for their classes. Staffers at Atomic Learning in Little Falls helped train the staff.

Dan Meyer, president of Atomic Learning, compared the story of the students using iPads for learning with Charles Lindbergh’s solo non-stop flight in 1927. Meyer said it wasn’t the airplane that made it across the Atlantic Ocean, it was the pilot, who was a Little Falls native. He said it’ll be the students who’ll become better learners not the iPads.

“Take them and achieve something great,” said Meyer.

School board Chair Robert Stoltman told the students not to be distracted by the technology, but to use it to enhance their learning. Stoltman said having an iPad is a privilege and they’ll have the entire world at their finger tips.

After the brief ceremony, the students were dismissed and the iPads were handed out. The high school students received their iPads in their morning classes, the fifth-graders received theirs at the high school in the commons and the rest of the middle school students received the iPads at the middle school.

Mark Diehl, technology coordinator in Little Falls, said the training of the iPads has gone well. He said teachers have been learning how to use the applications to their advantage for the curriculum. Diehl said the teachers learned how to do podcasts, discussion boards and downloaded a website called moodle, a free web application for educators.

After receiving the iPad,  high school senior Jon Brill said it’ll be a great experience to have the latest and most up-to-date technology right at his finger tips. Brill said his father has an iPad and showed him how to do a few things on it and he also has an Android, so learning the iPad should come easily for him.

“Hopefully all the kids will use it wisely,” he said.

Brill said he thinks the iPad will come in most handy when turning in assignments. He said he won’t have to worry about losing his homework and it’ll save on a lot of paper. Brill said he is looking forward to using Skype.

Senior Brichelle Brummer said using the iPad will be pretty new to her, but she’s excited to learn how to use it. Junior Luke Majerle said the iPad will be a cool tool to use for learning. He said it’ll be fun to explore the different applications and to create his own personality with his iPad, using music downloads that have been approved by the school district.

JENNIFER STOCKINGER may be reached at or 855-5851.

Becca Clemens
After graduating high school in 2004, I attended Central Lakes College in Staples, MN for 2 years where I got a diploma in Communication Art and Design. I then transfered up to Bemidji State University in, you guessed it, Bemidji, MN. In the spring of 2009, I graduated from BSU. Then in the fall of 2009 I got a job at Echo Publishing, a sister company to the Brainerd Dispatch.