Got a Student Who Hates School? Give Him an iPad!
W hen the going gets tough, the tough get technol- ogy. Or that’s what Ashley Talley does, anyway. As a teacher of talented and gifted students
and kids with special needs—including those with behavioral challenges—Talley realized early on that she had to
engage her students if she wanted them to stay interested
She grew up with technology, so it wasn’t much of a surprise that she began incorporating ed tech into her lessons
as a young teacher. She knew her students would love it. She
didn’t immediately realize, however, that technology would
be the key to turning one particularly difficult kid into a lifelong learner.
The student in question had never been successful in a
regular classroom, so he was placed in a class for students
with behavioral issues.
“He hated school, hated work, hated adults, could be vio-
lent, and had an all-around negative attitude toward
school,” she recalled. “But he had never been
in a classroom quite like mine before.”
Talley’s classroom had iPads,
desktops, laptops, webcams, mi-
crophones, Flip video cameras,
a Wii game system, an inter-
active whiteboard, a student
response system, and gobs
of interactive websites and
She started him out using an interactive whiteboard
and let him try the student response
“The immediate results, continuous feedback, and his ability to participate in the lesson
started to improve his engagement,” she said.
His attitude, along with his academic success, also began to improve. “Through the use
of these tools, he became hooked on learning,
developed a desire to come to school, and increased his academic achievement and his positive attitude toward adults,” she said. “He was
doing so well that we moved him into a less restrictive setting. It was a huge accomplishment
for this student, who had never experienced
success quite like that before.”
Talley taught for four years at Eaton Elementary School
in Lenoir City, Tennessee, USA, before she became an assistant principal at the same school in August.
As a teacher, Talley used tech tools with all her students. Her fourth graders used Skype to talk to peers from
another school across the state. Her talented-and-gifted
classes made podcasts of their debates and posted them
online. And her behaviorally challenged students recorded
themselves reading words, defining them, and creating
“The level of technology I used changed with each
situation and each group of kids, but the goal of technology use remained the same: to enrich the classroom
experience and enable students to reach and exceed
grade-level expectations,” she said.
Her enthusiasm for and success with educational tech-
nology led her to be named a 2011 ISTE Emerging Leader,
a distinction granted to young educators who are leaders
in tech integration.
Although she is now an administrator, Talley
remains an advocate for ed tech.
“Even though I am not in the
classroom, my love and desire
for using technology hasn’t
changed,” she said. “I have
the opportunity to share
what I am learning with
a large group of teachers,
and I can share with nu-
merous classrooms the ideas
and approaches that I have seen work.”
In fact, she loves to talk about her favor-
ite tools. Just don’t ask her to pick favorites.
“Wow, it’s really hard to decide,” she
said. “I have so many tools in my toolbox.
But if I have to pick a favorite, I would
choose the iPad. The iPad is changing the
way educators can differentiate and track
student learning, track academics and
behavior, reinforce skills, present infor-
mation, teach new ideas, extend learning,
and create and save documents for on-
—Diana Fingal is the senior editor of L&L.