The lesson, which will utilize five iPads bought through the grant, is titled “King Tutankhamun: Was it Murder?” and is based through the educational website www.webquest.org.
“You have to show how your instruction and use of technology will impact school improvement,” Topham said of the grant. “This is a lesson I have used with gifted students for several years and they’ve always enjoyed it. I used laptops in the past, but I saw the opportunity to use iPads and take it into the regular fourth-grade classrooms and let all fourth-grade students enjoy the experience.”
In the lesson, students have to conduct research under an assigned role, such as a medical examiner, a reporter or an archaeologist, Topham said.
Their role also determines what websites they visit to gather information.
“[Students then] come back to a team where each team member who has a different role shares their information and the group has to form a consensus of whether or not they believe King Tut was murdered or not and then they have to present evidence to support their idea,” Topham said. “They have to write an opinion paper on what they believe and why, which is a fourth-grade [Georgia Performance] Standard.
“In the Challenge [gifted program] room, ... every team will have a member with a different role. In the homeroom setting, all the medical examiners [for example] will be in one group. So the grouping is different and that way they can help each other because you’re dealing with more varied academic levels.”
Parent Teacher Cooperative member and co-grant writer Kristen Lindemer said a major benefit of the grant is its ability to transcend learning levels.
“One of the reasons that probably helped get the grant is that it wasn’t just for 15 students that are gifted; it is something that can be translated out to the rest of the grade,” Lindemer said.
The school currently hosts about 356 fourth graders, Topham said.
“After my gifted students have done the lessons, they will become the teachers’ aids and so when I’m presenting in homeroom and walking through the lesson, the grouping will be different, but the Challenge [gifted program] students will be able to assist me,” she said.
Topham said while Challenge students have been successful in the past working through the lesson on laptops, she said using tablets will expand capabilities of the lessons.
“[iPads] are easier for kids to handle, it’s new, smaller — it’s just like when you give a kid a new video game. It’s appealing, it’s a challenge, it’s something to use,” Topham said, adding the intuitive nature of the piece of technology also will allow students to spend more time with the lesson and less time training on the iPads.
A condition of the grant is Topham will have to show whether student achievement improved after using the lesson. She said she will do this by using a rubric as well as looking at Criterion Referenced Competency Tests scores.
Both Lindemer and PTC member Julie Smith, who also helped write the grant, said they are available to provide grant-writing assistance to teachers at CES.
“I think that one of the main barriers to teachers applying for grants is that they don’t have time with everything else they have to do. To write a grant from start to finish — it’s just so much to do,” Lindemer said. “... We’ve offered [our help] to any of the teachers in this school that are interested.”
Principal Ken MacKenzie said he is excited about the use of technology in the classroom and appreciates the PTC assisting with grant writing.