NPTech: iPad High School

[message type=”info”]NPTech is a new series of posts in which we plan to highlight nonprofit organizations around the world using technology in new and interesting ways. If you know a nonprofit that fits the bill, send us a note and we’ll showcase them here.[/message]

iPad's in use at Burlington High in Massachussetts
The principal of Burlington High School in Massachussetts caught some flak when he suggested the school give each student an iPad in favor of purchasing new textbooks. You could imagine concerned parents and educators each had something to say about the device’s role in “real” learning. After a thorough examination of the school budget and analysis of the cost for new textbooks, principal¬†Patrick Larkin convinced the district to allow the school to go digital. the program was a partnership between the school and the local chamber of commerce, who helped defray some of the technology costs.

Just a few short month ago, Burlington High rolled out the iPad learning initiative and it has caught the attention of educators around the country. Each child is assigned an iPad, which comes with a serial number linked to that student. The students also have the option to get insurance, which can replace the iPad in case it is lost or damaged.

Teachers opted not to offer ebook textbooks, or even to use the textbook store through Apple. Instead, they create their lessons and make them available online. Teachers also make all the homework available in formats acceptable to the iPad, so the students can access them anytime they need to study, complete assignments, or take tests.

Some teachers thought the iPads would be a distraction, and that students would use too many games or apps. But keeping focus turned out to be easier than the teachers initially thought – when the teacher needs to take the student’s attention away from the iPad he asks the students to turn the iPads face down on the desk. That way, the shiny silver back of the iPad is facing up and the teacher can make sure students are paying attention. Well, maybe not guarantee attention, but at that point he knows they’re not playing with the iPads!

Principal Larkin believes to be successful we need to deliver educational material in a format with which our youth are familiar. That’s why most of the content is setup as interactive lessons with audio, video, online documents. On a recent NPR interview, the principal expressed his dissatisfaction with standardized testing, saying it was an antiquated method of assessing knowledge and skill. He also believes we wont see any real changes in test scores until we attack the real problem – how we educate, not how we test.

The district, Burlington Public Schools (BPS), is no stranger to technology. They have one of the better education tech websites out there (http://www.bpsedtech.org/), at which they offer students and parents instructional articles and videos, and links to other informational resources. BPS also starting to publish research data related to technology initiatives in place at its schools, most of which is promising – like this article about children’s math scores jumping 20% in all-iPad algebra classes.

Cut to a present day – how is the program now received now?

A local online news source, WickedLocal.com conducted a poll of children, parents, and educators. As of the date this post was published, 70% of those polled viewed the program positively or very positively, and only 21% thought it was a negative initiative.

[divider]

Education is a hot button topic, and for good reason. Our future, and that of our children, is tied to availability of quality education. Which is why OrgSpring wants your input on two areas.

What are your thoughts on digital education in general, and more specifically, on iPads in the classroom as a replacement of text book learning?

Leave a comment below!

The following two tabs change content below.

Craig Grella

Founder and Executive Director at OrgSpring
Craig is the founder and executive director or OrgSpring, a nonprofit dedicated to helping other nonprofits achieve their missions online. Through tips and tutorials, Craig's goal is show nonprofits how to use technology to become more efficient, grow their list of supporters, and increase online donations.