This is a guest news story by Kevin Gray. Each Miami County Library location – Osawatomie, Paola, and Louisburg- received Baehr Foundation grants for iPad labs; library directors and staff participated in training alongside Fort Scott Community College instructors.

When people think of the iPad, they seldom think about a multitude of classroom uses. Or library uses. Or museum uses. Most people think iPads, and they immediately see individuals in coffee shops hunched over or leaning back in a relaxed fashion reading. But picture a small scale technology easily used for preparing presentations in class or for large training sessions; collaboration within class among students; sharing notes/lessons/responses back and forth in the classroom; importing photographs/research in collaborative projects with instant access; editing and revising pretty much anything and the possibilities go on endlessly.

Or being visitors and using them to view and learn about exhibits in a museum, such as the Miami County Historical Society Museum in Paola. Or being able to check out an iPad from a Miami County library or museum. The potential uses are endless, which is what brought educators and library personnel from both Miami and Johnson Counties together at Fort Scott Community College (FSCC) last Monday.

Two iPad labs will soon become available for everyday class work at the Miami County Campus of Fort Scott Community College thanks to two grants totaling $15,718 awarded by the Baehr and the Jewell-Roman Foundations. Each Miami County library has received a grant, said Buddy Jo Tanck, director of the Miami County Fort Scott Community College campus in Paola, for iPad labs.

“I hope we will be able to collaborate some of our training and ideas for the iPads with these groups,” Tanck said about what was an introduction to iPads. A much better understanding of educational concepts, Tanck said, taught in the classroom will be accomplished with the new equipment.

“I predict these devices will allow much more understanding of concepts discussed in the classroom,” Tanck said.

Along with FSCC instructors and staff in attendance on June 11, library directors and personnel from Osawatomie, Paola, Louisburg, Spring Hill and Johnson County took part. Because he has already been using iPads at the Miami County Historical Museum in Paola, Joe Hursey, the museum’s director, conducted the training.

“We believe we are the first museum in the Midwest to begin using iPads for our patrons, which has gotten us a lot of attention,” Hursey said.

Museum visitors, Hursey said, can be issued an iPad with a QR code, as they view the exhibits.

“All they have to do is turn on the camera function, and the iPad with explain the item on display,” Hursey said.

What surprised Hursey is how the museum’s oldest senior citizens have been attracted to the iPads.

“They have had no problems, and it can get a bit out of hand because they find they don’t want to give up the iPad,” Hursey said. This is why, Hursey said, the museum plans to have full-time sign out very soon.

As for the FSCC training session, Hursey and Tanck both said the training had been designed for beginners with no experience.

In opening remarks, Hursey said iPads can be used so differently and that there are about 80 different tablet-like devices on the market.

“iPad is the best thing going, which is why he has them at the museum. Kindles and Nooks will do specific things, but the iPad is the most versatile, even with a few limitations,” Hursey said.

As the FSCC campus director, Tanck said she has been able to see, firsthand, numerous potential applications for iPads in the classroom.

“The coolest thing that I have seen is an astronomy application that allows you to hold the iPad up to the sky, and the GPS in the device allows you to find stars, constellations, and even satellite locations,” Tanck said. Witnessing the use of an iPad for astronomy, Tanck said, was fascinating.

“I thought, ‘What potential there is here for engaging students in learning.’ It definitely sparked my interest in learning more about the stars and the planets. I also thought about how easy it would be to teach this to my kids with my own limited knowledge of the subject,” Tanck said. Both Tanck and Tricia Sinclair, Paola campus Computer Applications and business instructor, have been discussing a variety of ways to integrate technology into the classroom for students and the instructors.

“We both purchased devices similar to the iPad but which were less expensive. However, they did not work the way an iPad does. We knew that the only way we would be able to use these in the classroom or even educate our instructors on the devices was to receive them through a grant or a donation,” Tanck said.

Tanck said she had to find a means of getting the devices into the hands of students and faculty.

“It is very difficult for students, faculty, or individuals in the community to know how the iPads can be used, if they are not able to get their hands on them and use them. This is exactly what I wanted to do for our faculty,” Tanck said. This way, Tanck said, she could actually give her faculty and staff an opportunity to get their hands on an iPad.

“Now, they will be able to think about how they can enhance their teaching and student learning by utilizing these devices,” Tanck said.

When talking to the FSCC Director of Nursing, Bill Rhoads, Tanck said she discovered how iPads are already being used.

“They actually integrate iPads into the final semester for the nursing students. This made sense to me since a lot of hospitals are integrating tablets and other computerized database programs at the patient bedside.
“I felt we needed to help train these students on how to use these devices before they went into this final semester,” Tanck said. Although actual details about use of the labs, said Tanck, are still under discussion, part of the grant included training for faculty, staff, and community resource personnel.

“The training session in June, Tanck said, was designed to help familiarize participants with the iPad technology. The plan is to offer a second opportunity around the end of July for FSCC instructors to discuss ways we can utilize the iPad in the classroom,” Tanck said. Tanck said they are excited to have the new labs and devices in their building and for utilization in their classrooms.

“We owe a great debt of gratitude to the Baehr and Jewell-Roman Foundations and their trustees.

“It is also because of all the work you do for the college and for the members of our community that has led us to this success and future endeavor,” Tanck said about the college faculty and staff, as well as the community.

Plans for the iPads at the Osawatomie Public Library will focus on literacy and their Early Childhood 6 by 6 Program said Director Elizabeth Trigg.

“The 6 by 6 program is an early literacy educational tool for parents to use with their children, which involves the six tools kids need to learn by age six,” Trigg said. By focusing on different books and word recognition and vocabulary parents can pick out important details, Trigg said, and help their children become better readers.

“Brad Debrick, originally from Paola, developed 6 by 6 for the Johnson County Library, where he works, rolled it out to the the state, and it has been a fabulous program,” Trigg said. The 6 by 6 program has gone on to develop applications for iPads with early literacy tools, Trigg said.

“We have already been looking at those apps, such as the Goodnight Safari iPad App. With this, children and their parents have Read Me directions. Children can move characters around and interact with the story,” Trigg said.

Having already been looking ahead, Trigg said, the Oswatomie Friends of the Library bought 250 picture books with iPad tie-ins.

“Each book is already checked out and with the 6 by 6 program apps tie-in we should be ready to go with the iPads. Parents are so excited,” Trigg said.

Speaking about attending the training session, Paola Free Library Director Rosy King said one of the best things about the class was being able to hear how the college and other libraries were planning to use the iPads within their facilities.

“I think we beginners learned enough about the basic use of the iPad that we could take what we learned and do some learning on our own. We Microsoft users lost our fear of an Apple device,” King said.

Louisburg Library Director, Kiersten Allen, said the training had been a good starting point.

“I’m glad Buddy took on the task. I’m lucky to have a relationship with Joe, so he’s going to come over to the library once summer reading has ended and provide us with a more tailored presentation and kind of question and answer,” Allen said. The efforts of the Baehr Foundation Board of Trustees, said Allen should be recognized.

“We are so thankful to them for pursuing the grant to donate this level of technology to our patrons and staff. We now have the opportunity to explore the devices and really test the limits of the iPad 2, because there are so many things we can do now,” Allen said. Currently, Allen said they plan to use some iPads for early literacy and others as eReaders.

“But we are keeping our options open. We will have a focus group and encourage those patrons to use them as eReaders, checking them out and taking them home to explore for themselves,” Allen said. This is a big step, Allen said, but they are working on policies to keep the iPads and our patrons safe.

“We are pretty excited. One of the first things we will do is accept credit card payments and donations. Our patrons will be happy with that, and it’s a relatively small charge. It will be fun to discover all the ways this iPad 2 Learning Center will help the library and our patrons,” Allen said.

Before iPads could be placed in service, Tanck said, WiFi had to be installed.

“This is something the college paid for. Unfortunately, we will not be able to afford WiFi in the entire building, so we had to choose a space that would benefit the most with WiFi,” Tanck said.

The community room, Tanck said, was chosen and will be where teachers can access WiFi.

“If a class like biology would like to implement an iPad application into their course work, they would go to the community room for this part of the class. This will be much like going to the computer lab when working on assignments.

“If we were able to get WiFi throughout the entire building, we would be able to move these devices anywhere. This is what I would like to eventually be able to do,” Tanck said.

Unlike the two rooms set up as computer labs on the Paola FSCC campus, the term, iPad lab, means something entirely different. The two labs are actually two rolling carts able to store, charge, and sync up to 30 individual iPad devices.