Bringing iPads into the classroom 2011.11.09

Written by David Green.

iPad displayBy DAVID GREEN

Apple iPads have moved into Morenci Area High School, but it’s likely to be a while before they move on into the classroom.

High school teacher Deb Hojnacki talked about the devices at the school board meeting Monday and she explained why she’s been labeled the “resident expert”: simply because she owns one.

Other teachers who are interested in incorporating iPads into the classroom are  in the process of learning how to use them—similar to a smart phone—and how they can be of value.

Twenty iPads and a wheeled cart were purchased through an LISD technology grant called the Innovative Secondary Schools Initiative. Last year the district bought laptop computers with the funds; this year principal Kelli Campbell decided to look more to the future.

The LISD’s educational technology consultant, Greg Marten, expects mobile devices to find a growing use in the classroom.

“Mobile computing for many people, whether with an iPad or one of the other many types of devices, is the reality of today and tomorrow,” Marten said. “As educators, we are charged with preparing students for their futures, and in my opinion this should include the use of mobile computing devices for learning, collaboration, problem solving, critical thinking and communication.”

Hojnacki cautioned school board members against seeing the iPad tablet device as a mobile computer, although it does serve that purpose in many ways. 

Apps (short for applications) are what make the device hum, and there are tens of thousands available. Many are free, she said, although the really quality ones come at a cost. 

“There’s an app for everything, but you have to find it,” Hojnacki said.

At this time, the search can be challenging. The only way to find out what’s available is to go out and search, she said, and each teacher will need to find apps that are applicable to their classes.

Marten is also impressed with the large amount of audio and video material already available for use at no cost.

Hojnacki focuses on her special education students and sees a lot of value in the iPad for students who have difficulty reading (it will read the text for you) or writing (speak and it will write you words into text).

“Probably the biggest benefit is motivational,” she said. “Like it or not, this is the internet generation.”

Marten sees the devices are providing an easy tool for students to produce digital media, and that’s what he sees as the most powerful use of the device in the classroom.

“iPads used for media creation projects allow students to show what they know or are able to do in a modern, relevant, and engaging way,” he said.

The new iPads include a video camera that can be used to create presentations.

Digital presentation rather than something on paper will result in a paradigm change for educators, Hojnacki said, but she believes that’s the future.

What’s next?

Marten met recently with a few Morenci teachers who were interested in using the devices. He demonstrated the basics of using the tablet and gave some direction for educational use.

iPads can be aligned to a variety of common core education standards, he said, as well as to the state’s educational technology standards.

Hojnacki and colleague Kim Mohr, along with the district’s technology coordinator Hilda Jones, will soon attend an Apple-sponsored seminar to learn more.

Hojnacki expects teachers who are interested in incorporating iPads in the classroom will take time during the second trimester to better learn how to use them, to search for apps that will help students learn, and to plan on integrating the device into lessons.

“We’re not yet sure how to share them,” she said. “We’re still working on how to come up with a process, but staff has to become familiar with them first.”

She expects that to occur without much trouble.

“Everybody wants to touch them,” she said.

And that’s why she left the iPads in their cart at the meeting rather than passing them out to board members.

“Nobody would have been listening to me,” she said.

How they're being used...

A few school districts across the county have an iPad for every student. Some education officials expect the tablet to outnumber the computer in schools within five years.

iPad uses include:

• Incorporating Apple’s Garage Band software into music classes.

• A graphic calculator app.

• Documents from world history.

• Solar system simulation.

• Exploring via Google Earth.

• Math lessons incorporated into video games.

• Studying a video recording of physical education class exercises to see where improvement is needed.

• Pop-up videos imbedded into the text of a geometry book to further explain solutions.

• Replacing the paper textbook at a lower cost.

• Record-keeping software for teachers.

• Synching student iPads with the teacher’s for an instant reading of what students are understanding.

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