iPad’s Promise

What is 9.5 inches tall, 7.3 inches wide, and will be under the arm of every Dana girl come this fall? The Apple iPad. This electronic tablet will be ushered into all classrooms next year to create a more hands-on environment for students. iPads are finding their way into schools around the country and are changing the way classes are taught. With the anticipated ability of personalizing work, fostering more creativity, creating a more organized place for students and teachers to interact, and relieving students of a heavy backpack, there are high expectations for what may become teachers’ and students’ new educational ally.

“In addition to providing quick and easy access to the web, the iPad is an e-reader, a camera, an audio recorder, it can be used to create projects, collaborate with classmates, and annotate texts,” says Library Director and avid iPad supporter, Ms. Gray.

Though students may see the transition to iPads at Dana as sudden, it’s been in the works for almost a year. Ms. Paushter, Upper School Educational Technologist and club head of the Ed Techies, explains that integration of iPads starting with just freshman was considered, but because there are a lot of mixed classes, some students would have the iPads and others would not. “How can you use the iPads in these classes to the fullest if not everyone has one?” says Ms. Paushter.

Over the summer, each faculty member received an iPad to experiment with so that they might begin to learn how it can benefit the students. In the fall, there was also a workshop for teachers–a sort of “speed dating” event, during which teachers spent a short period of time testing out an assortment of applications on their iPad, such as: Explain Everything, Layar, Moodle, Notability, Skitch, and Twitter. Teachers were able to experiment with and consider technologies that could enhance their classes. “The ones that I think have proved most popular and versatile this year are Explain Everything and Notability,” says Ms. Gray.

Dana Hall’s new club, “The Ed Techies,” is paving the way for the iPad usage across the campus. Their meetings consist of more than twenty students who are interested in learning about sharing new knowledge about the iPad with the rest of the School. At the latest meeting, Ms. Paushter showed the girls how to use a polling website. Then she asked the girls to use the site to choose which Ed Techie sub-committee they were interested in joining. Their options included parent education, student training, media group, faculty training, or morning meeting. Once the girls voted, Ms. Paushter shared the results on her Smartboard and  subcommittees were formed. For the remainder of the club time, the girls discussed different ways to teach students and teachers about helpful applications. The girls want to create a Q&A forum, informational videos, and hold specific department trainings so teachers can learn which apps are best for their content areas.

The iPads performance in many schools has been studied and the results speak for themselves. In 2010, Pepperdine University performed a study on the iPad and its effect on the students. The conclusion of this research was that 75% of all the students found the iPad helpful. Students found the iPad special because “it can do everything.” Pepperdine also found that the only way to successfully integrate the iPad into classrooms is to have teachers require the use of certain apps or to get students to pressure other students into using the iPad. According to Pepperdine, this tactic must be used because “most students will not take time to learn something new unless they have to.”

The Ed Techies club compiled a list of all the positive attributes the iPad will bring to the Dana community. The decided pros were: the ability to create equality amongst the students, the chance for teachers to think “outside the box” and assign projects that are more creative, the opportunity to take pictures of notes on the board, and the ease and accessibility of storing a diverse load of work in one place. “I use my iPad for almost everything in school,” says Maddie Schneider ‘13. Schneider finds her iPad useful when looking at documents e-mailed or posted on Moodle by her teachers.  And unlike her laptop, the iPad is lightweight, relieving the strain most students suffer when they add their computers to the load of heavy books they carry on their backs.

Along with these positives, the Ed Techies considered some potential negatives: what happens if a student’s iPad crashes? What about the students who learn best by taking notes by hand? What about the cost of the iPad? And what if the iPad serves as a major distraction to students, or if it is abused? For the most part, Ms. Paushter says that these issues won’t be solved until the project is started and the kinks can be worked out. However, solutions are being made for some of these issues already. For those who can’t afford the iPad the school will help support them in purchasing one, explained Ms. Gray. Although the iPad may have the ability to serve as a distraction, Ms. Paushter pointed out that, “iPads are no more of a distraction to students than a computer or cell phone is,” so if their use is abused, it will be handled the same way that those devices are when it comes to taking them away. “If anything, the iPad will be less abused because the teacher will be able to see what the student is doing since the iPad will be flat on the table,” explains Ms. Paushter.

Adrianna Russell ’13 sees more negative effects from this transition than positives. “I like being able to physically hold the books. Going into bookstores and seeing the different covers and reading the first couple pages is one of my favorite things to do. The iPad is going to take away the ability to hold the actual book and that’s really important to me,” says Russell. Russell also noted that looking at the bright screen of the iPad or any other electronic device for too long can be a strain on the eyes, and had a major effect on her following a concussion she sustained during a basketball game. “Looking at the screen of my phone and computer for too long during the day was a large part of why I have yet to fully recover…. Imagine what looking at the iPad all day would do,” says Russell.

In a society where 90% of companies will offer workers the option to bring their own devices to work by 2014, Dana has found a way to take a next step toward creating a technologically advanced community and preparing its students for both college and the world beyond it. According to the website more than 1,000 colleges currently use the iPad in classrooms. With more than 20,000 apps made for education and 80% of those geared towards students, the iPad has become a device that fits into classrooms and education. Like all newfangled toys, Dana will have to determine for itself if the iPad proves a success.

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