iPads open up world of opportunity in art class at Willmar, Minn., Senior High School

WILLMAR - No more overloaded backpacks or sore back for Karina DeJong -- or her classmates -- this year. The Willmar Senior High senior says the Apple iPad tablet computer she carries has replaced heavy books, and she hardly ever carries a backpa...

iPads in art class
Marlen Mireles explains how she used her iPad to put together a design for her art class assignment at Willmar Senior High School. (Tribune photo by Ron Adams)

WILLMAR - No more overloaded backpacks or sore back for Karina DeJong - or her classmates - this year.

The Willmar Senior High senior says the Apple iPad tablet computer she carries has replaced heavy books, and she hardly ever carries a backpack anymore.

The Willmar School District provided one-to-one iPads for juniors and seniors this year, with the help of a community fundraising effort. The school plans to provide iPads for sophomores next year.

DeJong is a student in teacher Tonya Oie’s Advanced Placement art class, which meets at the same time as a drawing and graphic design class. De Jong and the other AP students said the iPads have enhanced their work this year, allowing them to develop digital projects where they combine images and work with color.

Senior Marlen Mireles, also an AP student, uses her iPad and a variety of apps she’s downloaded to create colorful graphic images. She also works on more traditional projects in the class.


Mireles plans to get a four-year art degree and hopes to work in computer graphic designing, so she’s enjoyed working on the iPad.

“It’s really helpful, especially for AP classes,” she said as she demonstrated the art-related apps she’s found.

“The iPad can do anything,” she said. She likes having her homework more portable. It’s saved her money, because she hasn’t had to purchase as many school supplies like notebooks and folders. And she’s not carrying all those papers and books around with her.

Mallory Loge uses her iPad to get ideas for art projects. She stores ideas and groups of images she wants to use together, whether in graphic or traditional mediums.

“It’s good to get it out there that it’s not just a toy,” Oie said. When she was first handed an iPad, she said, she wondered “how can I use that in an art room?”

But once she learned the ins and outs of iPads, she was brimming with ideas. “I think we are a very fortunate school to be able to go 1-to-1,” she said.

“I have always used technology,” she said. “When this idea came up, I said, ‘Bring it on.’”

Oie uses the technology in her room to let students “visit” art galleries around the world and to watch selected YouTube videos from artists. She can choose shorter videos that deal with each assignment, she said. It uses less class time than longer, broad-based educational videos would.


The teacher has enjoyed learning from her students, too, as they keep discovering art-related apps that she hasn’t found yet.

How do the students imagine a senior year without an iPad?

“Boring,” Mireles said.

“I think it would have been way harder,” DeJong said. “I don’t think I’d have had as much fun.” She wants to major in graphic design and minor in marketing in college.

“For this class, it would have been really hard,” Loge said. “We have so many projects to get done; it’s definitely a lot easier to have it.”

Loge continued, “Next year when we go to college, we’ll be using technology.”

The students said they weren’t sure what they would do when they had to turn in their iPads this spring. Most hope to acquire their own iPad or a laptop to use at college.

Mireles said she saves all of her work to her computer at home, so she doesn’t lose it when she returns the school’s iPad.


The iPads have made it easier for her to communicate with students, Oie said, and it will work even better next year when sophomores have them, too. For now, she sends assignments electronically to students with iPads and gives printed copies to younger students.

Oie uses her interactive white board to talk about assignments and often includes information about art history and art careers with class assignments.

The iPads have been useful in her classroom, which has just two computers. It saves time, she said. Before they had iPads, students often had to wait or go to a computer lab to do research.

Oie’s next step is to be able to get a computer capable of writing ibooks, so she can develop her own textbook for drawing classes.

“I can’t teach from a book, because they don’t have what I need,” she said, but she would like to develop her own that includes art history, examples of assignments and links to videos.

Related Topics: EDUCATION
In 42 years in the newspaper industry, Linda Vanderwerf has worked at several daily newspapers in Minnesota, including the Mesabi Daily News, now called the Mesabi Tribune in Virginia. Previously, she worked for the Las Cruces Sun-News in New Mexico and the Rapid City Journal in the Black Hills of South Dakota. She has been a reporter at the West Central Tribune for nearly 27 years.

Vanderwerf can be reached at email: or phone 320-214-4340
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