New Trier Puts iPads in the Classroom
The new initiative will explore technology-driven education opportunities.
The initiative is the second test phase of a program that aims to determine whether putting Apple iPad computer tablets in the hands of students can help them take notes, replace or supplement bulky textbooks, and lead to new, beneficial methods of testing and instruction.
After a smaller pilot program proved worthwhile last school year, the larger initiative was approved in March. Most participating faculty and students took part in summer training sessions, and the school will continue to offer development opportunities and staff support as the program continues.
A Sept. 9 school document detailing the program’s progress concluded that “early indications are that the Mobile Learning Initiative is off to a strong start”. Two students enrolled in the program spoke at the New Trier Board of Education’s Sept. 18 meeting, both commenting favorably on the initiative’s implementation.
Elizabeth Lee, a junior enrolled in three Mobile Learning Initiative classes, said the iPad made it easier to takes notes in class, helped her organize her various documents and has allowed her to go mostly paperless.
“Normally I’m for paper over digital files,” Lee said, “but in this case, it is a lot easier to take really quick notes on the iPad… It’s just been really easy to send that into DropBox and quickly access it on my computer… It has been really easy to consolidate everything together.”
Lee also said the iPad has allowed teachers to assign experimental projects, such as a “visual essay” she must complete for her English class.
Senior Jamie Resko also said the iPad has helped him stay organized.
“It’s taken a lot of weight out of my backpack,” Resko said. “It’s also been a lot easier to organize the notes that I take. I know people who just throw a piece of paper in their backpack and forget about it.”
“I also use it outside of school,” Resko continued. “I think it has, pretty much, mostly replaced my computer for general use.”
71 percent of participating students chose to rent a district-issued iPad for a $60 fee, 21 percent chose to purchase an iPad from the district for $400 and 8 percent used iPads that they already owned. The rental fee money was combined to create a self-insurance pool to help pay for broken or lost iPads.
Students, parents and teachers were surveyed before the program’s implementation to gauge initial attitudes. According to the results, the majorities of all three groups were excited about the initiative and saw its potential to enhance students’ educational experience. However, only 36.5 percent of non-participating teachers said they thought using an iPad would be better for students than a laptop computer (44.2 percent remained undecided).
While Resko said he had used his iPad to craft a college essay, Lee admitted that she still preferred to type longer essays on a computer. Both said they used stylus computer pens to assist in note taking.
While the program’s kickoff has gone mostly smoothly, according to the Sept. 9 document, installing digital textbooks on the iPads presented some problems, as some students accidentally threw away their textbook activation codes and one publisher failed to accurately update installation instructions. The school also had to improve its wireless network and triple its internet capacity to accommodate the additional wireless devices.
Participating teachers will continue to meet monthly for additional professional development and students have the option of visiting the school’s new iPad support center with questions concerning file management and application configuration. A “Student Technology Leadership Program” has also educated 20 students with the technical know-how to assist their peers in using and troubleshooting the tablet.
The Mobile Learning Initiative currently includes biology, environmental geosciences, anatomy, physics, financial management, sports medicine, Chinese, French, English, American studies, sociology and psychology classes.
Christopher Johnson, director of technology at New Trier, said he would present another program update sometime in January.