In its seventh year, the school district’s "Showcase of Excellence" provides talent development students in grades one through five an opportunity to share their work with their families and the community. This year’s event was held May 16 at the Staff Development Center.
For the event, students are asked to create a project in response to a specific subject they’ve learned in their talent development class. Through the experience, students develop research skills and gain insights in a self-selected topic. The Showcase of Excellence gives families and the community a chance to see what children are capable of doing and to learn how teachers guide children in developing advanced skills and unleashing their creative power.
New this year is a Talent Development iPad Pilot Project. Each of the nine talent development teachers, who travel between schools, have eight iPads for students to share. The project is led by Ben Lacina, the talent development teaching and learning specialist (TALS), and supported by Jeanne Sorsen and Linda Perske.
Perske said the iPad Pilot Project is actually an expansion of a project started last year with iPod touches. Using the iPod touch, teachers had students accessing websites to gather information for research projects.
"With the expansion to the iPads, students are able to actually create projects using apps," Perske said "We purchased the app ‘Book Creator’ for each iPad. Teachers were to choose at least one grade level that they would use the app with. The goal was to have the students create a book around a topic they were studying."
At the Showcase of Excellence, a room was set up with iPads so students could show families their projects. By using Book Creator, students learned to create an eBook of their own by writing content they gained through research, formatting the text and adding photos.
Nancy Steffl, a talent development teacher at Champlin Brooklyn Park Academy and Oxbow Creek Elementary School, said by using the iPads her students became enthusiastic researchers.
"They loved the multi-media approach adding real pictures to text and being able to add voice expressions to their work," Staffl said. "They became completely engaged in their work and didn’t want to stop. Isn’t that what we all hope will happen for students-to make them enthusiastic learners?"
While there are a few bugs to work out with the iPad Pilot Project, such as finding ways to transfer projects to other devices, Perske said it has been a success.
"Students were very enthusiastic and creative," she said. "The project will continue next year and we will look for additional apps that will meet talent development teachers’ instructional needs."