Technology Bits & Bytes
iPads: Making a Long-Lasting Impact
by David Robertson, Chief Technology Officer
October, 30, 2014
At Presbyterian School, we value the iPad. On any given school day, there are literally hundreds of these devices on our campus. As soon as the iPad came out in 2010, we began experimenting with them and have increased our teacher and student use every year since. Our growth in use of the iPad comes because we've seen, year after year, significant learning opportunities which leave a long-lasting impact on our students. Consider these three opportunities:
- As students use their iPad at school, they are able to see the iPad as a tool for learning and not just a gaming device. The iPad and/or other mobile technology devices are showing up in the lives of teens and pre-teens. According to one survey, approximately 66% of teenagers own an iPad. But in many schools iPad technology is shunned and students are only allowed to use the tablet for recreation at home. Unfortunately, this creates a perception among teens that the iPad is only useful for gaming and watching YouTube.
At Presbyterian School, we want our students to see their iPad as a powerful tool for researching, creating (videos, papers, drawings), collaborating, and communicating. That's how our teachers use it, and that is how we ask our students to use their iPad at school. Of course the iPad is still a great "fun" device and students will learn that on their own. We want our students to embrace the iPad as both a tool and a toy.
Learning to channel the power of the iPad towards learning and productivity is a priceless tool Presbyterian School students gain and get to keep with them long after they graduate from the School.
- As students use their iPad at school, they join their teachers on a journey of discovery and become confident learners. The iPad is still an extremely new device. Five years ago there were no iPads anywhere in use. Now each year, Apple introduces software updates that make the iPad a more powerful device for research, creation, collaboration and communication. All of us, teachers and students alike, are still learning the best ways to use this tool. And oftentimes, it's the students who are able to quickly navigate and be the first one to offer a solution to a problem.
It's a great moment when a teacher says to her students: "Well, I thought I could use this app, but it doesn't work the way I thought it would. Let me try something else . . ." That is a teacher modeling how to learn. And, if you want to see confidence in our students, watch their faces after they help a teacher with something on the iPad.
Our school's message of Confidence in every Child is not merely rhetoric. As educators, we have a firm belief in each student's potential and that he/she can achieve his/her personal best with confidence. At times, learning may look like the teacher leading the student, and at other times a student may rise up to take the lead. This is what Confidence in every Child looks like. At Presbyterian School, students and teachers are on a learning journey together. Our belief in each student's ability to learn and lead gives him/her the confidence to embrace new intiatives and opportunities after they leave the School.
- As students use their iPad at school, they learn how to multi-task and manage the many "distractions" of the device. iPads and smartphones can be distracting to pre-teens, teenagers, and adults alike. As an example, just look around you at your next office meeting. The temptation to text, email, surf the web, check social media, or play a game is not reserved solely for teenagers. Adults face these very same temptations. We all have to learn how to focus on the here-and-now (which isn't always that interesting) while we hold in our hands powerful devices that can connect us with very interesting things. Like us, our students need to learn that sometimes it's okay to have iPads open, and sometimes they need to close them up and ignore them.
Having an iPad at your disposal 24-7 and knowing when to use it is a learned skill and practice matters. We've already seen this at Presbyterian School. In 2010 when our 8th grade students first got iPads to use in school, they could barely contain their excitement and some could hardly focus on their work. Today, four years later, our 8th grade students are significantly less distracted. Our 8th grade students, having used the iPad now for all their middle school years, have practiced managing the use of their powerful device.
These are just three learning opportunities which present far-reaching consequences for our students. There is no doubt, there are hundreds more learning opportunities which are specific to academic subjects that we have not even broached here. To be certain, we remain convinced that giving students access to iPads, in ways appropriate to their ages, has tremendous educational benefit and positive life impact for our students.
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