Tuesday, January 4, 2011

NY Times > More Schools Embracing iPad As Learning Tool

More Schools Embracing iPad As Learning Tool / New York Times  / January 4 2011 / Winnie Hu

ROSLYN, N.Y. — As students returned to class this week, some were carrying brand-new Apple iPads in their backpacks, given not by their parents but by their schools.
A growing number of schools across the nation are embracing the iPad as the latest tool to teach Kafka in multimedia, history through “Jeopardy”-like games and math with step-by-step animation of complex problems.
As part of a pilot program, Roslyn High School on Long Island handed out 47 iPads on Dec. 20 to the students and teachers in two humanities classes. The school district hopes to provide iPads eventually to all 1,100 of its students.
The iPads cost $750 apiece, and they are to be used in class and at home during the school year to replace textbooks; allow students to correspond with teachers, file papers and homework assignments; and preserve a record of student work in digital portfolios.
At a time when school districts are trying to get their budgets approved so they do not have to lay off teachers or cut programs, spending money on tablet computers may seem like an extravagance.
But school leaders say the iPad is not just a cool new toy but rather a powerful and versatile tool with a multitude of applications, including thousands with educational uses.
“If there isn’t an app that does something I need, there will be sooner or later,” said Mr. Reiff, who said he now used an application that includes all of Shakespeare’s plays.
Educators also laud the iPad’s physical attributes, including its large touch screen (about 9.7 inches) and flat design, which allows students to maintain eye contact with their teachers.
And students like its light weight, which offers a relief from the heavy books that weigh down their backpacks.
“I think this could very well be the biggest thing to hit school technology since the overhead projector,” … .
The New York City public schools have ordered more than 2,000 iPads, at $1.3 million; 300 went to Kingsbridge International High School in the Bronx, or enough for all 23 teachers and half the students to use at the same time.
More than 200 Chicago public schools applied for 23 district-financed iPad grants … .
The Virginia Department of Education is overseeing a $150,000 iPad initiative that has replaced history and advanced-placement biology textbooks at 11 schools. In California, six middle schools in four cities (San Francisco, Long Beach, Fresno and Riverside) are teaching the first iPad-only algebra course developed by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt.
But technology advocates like Elliot Soloway, an engineering professor at the University of Michigan at Ann Arbor, and Cathie Norris, a technology professor at the University of North Texas, question whether school officials have become so enamored with iPads that they have overlooked less costly options, like smartphones that offer similar benefits at a fraction of the iPad’s base cost of about $500.
“You can do everything that the iPad can with existing off-the-shelf technology and hardware for probably $300 to $400 less per device,” Professor Soloway said.
Apple has been developing a school market for the iPad by working with textbook publishers on instructional programs and sponsoring iPad workshops for administrators and teachers. It does not, however, appear to have marketed the tablet as aggressively to schools as it did with its early desktop computers, … . [snip].
The company’s app store shows that 5,400 educational applications are available specifically for the iPad, of which nearly 1,000 can be downloaded free.
Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, which developed the iPad algebra program in California, said it planned to compare the test scores of students using a textbook in digital and traditional book formats. The iPad version offers video of the author solving equations, and individualized assessments and practice problems.
In Virginia, Pearson, an educational publisher, added iPad-specific features to existing American and world history programs, including an application for “Jeopardy”-like games and functions that enable students to take on-screen notes in the margins, bookmark pages and zoom in for close-ups. [snip].
Many school officials say they have been waiting for a technology like the iPad.
Daniel Brenner, the Roslyn superintendent, said the iPads would also save money in the long run by reducing printing and textbook costs; … .
The district has begun replacing math textbooks with digital versions and expects to be able to download about 60 percent of the high school’s literature reading list from iBooks free.
“It’s not about a cool application,” Dr. Brenner said. “We are talking about changing the way we do business in the classroom.”


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