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OU’s Future Teachers Ready to Improve Education With iPads

OU’s Future Teachers Ready to Improve Education With iPads

Newly admitted College of Education students received iPads to help revolutionize the way they learn today and teach in the future.

When University of Oklahoma graduate Jenn Lowery assesses how her sixth-grade students comprehend math problems, she doesn’t just look at assignments and test scores. 

The Fairview Elementary math teacher looks at how the students work through equations on SmartBoards (interactive whiteboards with a touch screen instead of a mouse) and receives personal data about how they perform on iPad apps. 

Forget flashcards; students in today’s technology-saturated classrooms are turning to other means, like the insatiable, sushi-gobbling monster in the free app Sushi Monster to master addition, multiplication and more. “They will do 100 math problems that way and they will not even argue about it,” she joked.

Lowery is one of hundreds of former and current OU students who use university-provided iPads to revolutionize the way they learn today and teach in the future. Thanks to the Jeannine Rainbolt College of Education, Lowery was prepared to flex her tech skills and teach in a high-tech classroom when she left OU.

“Almost every year I’ve gotten some new piece of technology that I use for teaching,” she said. “It’s expected now: You need to grow with technology.”

Lowery brought her Fairview Elementary Tech Club to the University of Oklahoma Jan. 11 to celebrate the college’s latest iPad rollout. Theresa Cullen, associate professor and director of the iPad program in the College of Education, said having the young students there was beneficial to OU’s future teachers. They had asked for more access to students throughout the program to better understand how school-age children currently use technology in the classroom. 

“They don’t really realize what all the kids can do,” Cullen said. “They want more time with kids in the classrooms. This is why they want to be teachers. So the more we can build that in, the better it is for them.”

The University of Oklahoma launched its iPad program in Spring 2013 when it gave iPads to 575 students enrolled in the college’s undergraduate teacher education program, and the program has been gaining momentum ever since. Cullen said student initiative has really taken off, with students integrating the iPads into their class work more now than when the program first launched. For example, when one student was assigned to make a poster board for a project, she approached her professor about making an iBook instead — something she learned in Cullen’s technology course.

By graduation, students are prepared for a technology-driven curriculum. All students will have created an iTunes U course, assembled an iBook and will have mastered Google tools on their iPad. 

“We are hearing back from our employers that they love our students and their openness to technology,” Cullen said. “I get contacted from students that have just been out one or two years and they are technology leaders in their schools and leading the charge. This program is very successful, and as we graduate more students we will continue to see the benefits.”

Cullen as well as other OU faculty and staff met students newly admitted to the College of Education that day and handed out the iPad Airs that they will use throughout their time at OU. The students keep the iPads upon graduation so they can integrate technology into their own classrooms as professional educators.

Marisela Esparza, a freshman special education major, sat among the buzzing students that day as she waited for the celebration to kick off. The Chicago native chose the University of Oklahoma’s College of Education after researching several educational programs and said OU’s iPad program is an exciting opportunity for her.

“I heard about it and I thought, ‘We get free iPads? That’s crazy!” she said. “Everything is basically technology nowadays. Anything you want to do has to be on the Internet.”

She said using iPads as a student at OU is crucial in preparing her for the job she wants upon graduation.

“I believe it will help me as far as learning techniques and activities to help students,” she said. “I think it’s a great thing."

In fact, more and more studies are touting the effects of iPads in special education classrooms as the technology not only helps the students learn, but communicate better, too. 

Also at the iPad rollout celebration were current University of Oklahoma students who had undertaken class projects highlighting the usefulness of certain apps. Kelsey Branscum, senior elementary education major, showcased her project that featured the Aurasma app

Tasked with creating a project around OU’s upcoming Galileo exhibit, she used her iPad to hover over pieces of paper with Galileo-related words and phrases typed on them. The app recognized the phrase and would immediately play a short informational video.

Lowery encouraged the students receiving iPads that day to seek out learning opportunities and new ways to use apps. She suggested they use their social and professional network of fellow teachers to share ideas regarding the fast-paced world of technology.

“I myself probably only found half of the apps on my iPad," she said. "The rest were through webinars, through friends, through colleagues, through school. You just always have to keep learning and keep abreast of everything. Don’t try to do it all yourself. … If everyone is trying to do the same thing, why not work together on it and do it really well?” 

Through the One University digital initiative, OU is broadly implementing technology in and out of the classroom to improve the academic experience of our students. For more information about One University, visit

All photos provided by Ame Aziere.