Last week I visited a nearby school that has deployed iPads for all 7-12 students. This is the first year for the program, and teachers and students are doing some impressive things.
The program was funded by a state technology grant and included 10 days of Apple-led training for teachers before the school year began. Teachers read the book Rewired in their Professional Learning Communities during the school year to foster discussion and rethinking of their approaches. The school chose 4 common apps (Pages, Numbers, Keynote, and GoodReader), and each student’s account included those. In addition, the school has an Edmodo account. Plans for next year include the addition of Garage Band and iMovie as common apps.
The school required parents to have insurance to cover damage. Some families also purchased cases and/or keyboards. So far, the biggest hardware issue has been screen damage, and turnaround time in dealing with the issue has been acceptable.
I was welcomed into a ninth grade English class that was beginning a research paper unit. The teacher directed students to the App Store, where each student has an account, to download Mindjet, a mapping/organization tool.
Students were adept at accessing their accounts, downloading, installing, and exploring the app, which about half had used previously in a science class. For her presentation, the teacher’s iPad connected to a ceiling-mounted LCD projector. Students were directed to her Edmodo page if they needed information or resources after class.
The technology was making a difference in every class I visited. In another English class, students created multimedia projects in response to their reading. Science lab reports included iPad videos of the experiment so that the teacher could determine whether students had followed procedure correctly. Students color-coded their notes. One of the science teachers shared how he produces his own text materials using iBooks Author, an app that is available to teachers free of charge. He had even included mini-quizzes in the text, so students could make sure they understood the material as they read. A math teacher is working with the screencasting tools ShowMe and Educreations to put his presentations online. His long-range goal is to “flip” his classroom. Both students and teachers are looking at the devices in a spirit of “let’s see what we can do.”
My biggest concern was the virtual keyboard. Students seemed happy with it for the most part. The 8th graders seemed surprised that I would even ask about it. The seniors, however, had another perspective.
In the dual-credit senior writing class, almost everyone had an external keyboard. Many students wrote the paper on laptops they brought from home. The iPad, propped up to one side, served as the repository for their research notes; and students worked back and forth between the two. When I asked, students said the virtual keyboard wasn’t good for long writing tasks like a research paper.
It was the only downside I heard mentioned.
Overall, this school is doing more than meeting standards. Both students and teachers have accepted a challenge to integrate new applications and new ways of thinking about schooling on a daily basis.
It looks to me like there’s some serious education going on here.