Weather Forecast


Symbol of future for America’s students offers a look back at a defining event of nation’s past

Nic Mead, left, and Brayden Sunder take notes use iBooks on their iPads in Ann Hendershott's classroom at the Willmar Middle School. Tribune photo by Ron Adams

WILLMAR — When it’s time to talk about the Great Depression in teacher Ann Hendershott’s eighth-grade history class, it’s time to grab an iPad.

Hendershott’s iBook on the Depression covers the same material as her students’ textbooks and adds audio files, videos and photo galleries.

The additional material draws students in, “so they’re really invested in it,” Hendershott said last week, while her students read her iBook and watched videos about the Dust Bowl and First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt.

All students use her iBook about the Depression, but Hendershott has developed several others specifically for the special education and English Language Learner students in her classes. Hendershott, long known for her attention to helping struggling students, has developed the books on her own time.

Her books cover the same subject matter as the regular textbook, but they use different ways of explaining the material. She has recorded her voice reading each chapter, so students can listen to her and read along in the book. Vocabulary words are highlighted, and a click gives them a definition.

“The textbook reading level is too difficult for some students,” she said, but it’s still important for them to learn the same information. “Probably the best thing I’ve ever done is make these books.”

A week ago, Hendershott asked students to read a chapter on the Depression and to study the accompanying photos and videos. They were to find the answers to a series of questions about the Depression.

She warned students that some in the previous class had finished the chapter much too quickly to have watched more than 12 minutes of videos. Those kids had just been looking for the answers, she said. “That’s frustrating for me, because we put a little work into this.”

IPads at Willmar Senior High have been the focus of new technology in the past year, but the tablet computers and other new technology is being used at all levels of the school district.

Hendershott’s students said they liked reading her iBooks about the Depression and preferred them to the traditional textbooks.

Skyra Schwab, 13, and Avery Mead, 14, said they like following along while their teacher reads a chapter, and they believe they absorb the information better that way. They can check on vocabulary words and enlarge photos if they want to.

“It’s quicker and easier in a way,” Avery said. “She still makes us work,” Skyra added.

The girls said they like learning about history from Hendershott.

“It’s my favorite subject,” Avery said.

“She’s always telling us things that we never knew,” Skyra said. The teacher often shares things she calls “juicy facts” — interesting tidbits that aren’t included in their textbooks.

Hendershott had one hour of training at the high school on iPads and “everything else I’ve just learned on my own,” she said. “I keep learning to do new things and incorporate into the books.”

Hendershott does not sell or distribute her books outside her classroom. Credits for all of her sources are included in the back of each book.

Linda Vanderwerf

I cover education issues for the West Central Tribune and have worked for the paper since 1995. I have worked in journalism since 1981.

Follow me on Twitter: @lindavanderwerf

(320) 214-4340