Teachers from Iowa, Oklahoma and across the country are flocking to Cardinal School District to see firsthand how staff and students are utilizing cutting-edge technology in the classroom.
Wednesday, educators from Fort Supply, Oklahoma and Chariton, Iowa toured the district to see how tablets, smartboards and more are being implemented from kindergarten to 12th grade.
"When [the visitors] leave, I want them first of all to think that we care about kids - above technology or whatever - that we care about kids and we want to do the right thing for kids," said Joel Pedersen, Superintendent of the Cardinal School District. "I also hope that they feel we have a good culture in place that initiatives are going to work, whether it's technology or reading, math, that we have a culture in place that's going to be a place where we're going to grow and learn and hopefully increase achievement."
The Chariton and Fort Supply school districts are looking into purchasing some of the same technology Cardinal students are using.
"Actually to see the device in action and not just hold it in your hand and try to anticipate what the students are going to do about it, and probably talking to the students themselves, what do you like about it, what do you not like about it? I think that's probably been the most beneficial," said Lori Howell, a 5th-7th grade math teacher in Fort Supply.
"That was the number one thing on our list is before we purchase this," added Kellie Williams, a 5th and 6th grade reading teacher at Fort Supply. "We are going somewhere and we want to talk to the kids and we want to talk to the teachers and see what they say."
Cardinal is a 1 to 1 school, with a program called CurriculumLoft that directly blends technology and education in the classroom and at home. Kuno tablets are in the hands of every student, Promethean tables are used in the elementary classrooms and the district even has an app. So is it surprising to find this technology in Southeast Iowa?
"Well, no," said Pat Howell, Superintendent of Fort Supply School District. "We're from a very small school and I think sometimes, when you're in a smaller district, leadership has an opportunity to implement things that aren't so watered down by policies and other sites and it's a little bit easier to be focused on what you're doing when you're able to function within your own boundaries and they're not so spread apart."
Cardinal is more than just a groundbreaker, they're a role model, showing how technology can positively impact the learning experience.
"I really feel like they're using technology in the right way," Lori Howell said. "They have a good school, good community and it looks like they have a lot of support from their community here."
Implementing technology doesn't just affect the classroom, of course, it carries over into students' home life, as well as their lives on social media. Controlling the online environment requires a stable and supportive school culture.
"One of the things I've been really impressed with here at Cardinal is just walking around and seeing what interaction we've been able to see has been very courteous and appropriate," said Mark Felderman, Social Studies teacher at Chariton High School. "You see it all over the walls, you see posters - it really looks like they're really doing some things really well here."
All in all, the technology initiative says good things about the Cardinal School District and its kids.
"I just think it says a lot about our district as a whole, whether it's school board leadership, whether it's administrative leadership to teacher leadership to our community to our parents - we want to be on the cutting edge and want to make some, take some risks to hopefully do good things for kids," Pedersen said. "I think it does say a lot that a rural Southeast Iowa school district that we're able to do that, but we're excited about that and want to continue to do good things for kids."