iPads Enhance Freshman Curriculum


Students Using iPads in class

Liz Berndt, Staff Writer

This year, about one-third of the 2016 freshman class was given iPads and made part of the “iMat Trial.” The addition of iPads into the technology toolbox of this year’s freshmen has aroused mixed feelings. The excluded students from the trial are disappointed they did not receive an iPad. On the other hand, Principal Adam Clark and English teacher Steve Poling are hopeful and very excited about the potential for growth in education.

“Research shows technology is how you make the next jump in learning,” Clark said. “We wanted to find a way to put technology into kids’ hands so they could create a one-on-one working relationship with it.”

The Measure E bond, passed Nov. 4, 2008, supplied the money to purchase these iPads. Voters agreed to put aside around $93 million to improve facilities and upgrade technology. A portion of this money must be spent on technology. The administration decided to spend part of this designated money on iPads due to their potential to replace textbooks, aid in research, and replace “old school” pen and paper.

The administration wanted to test-drive the iMat program with the freshman class for one reason; there is no flexibility in their course options for History and English, providing a control for the trial.

This created a problem: which students would receive iPads? Clark promises it was completely random. The selection was based solely on how the computer arranged students into classes. This random selection divided the inseparable Fabian twins.

Emily and Lizzie Fabian do everything together. They have three of the same classes and both play on the varsity volleyball team. However, they were out of sync when only one received an iPad. Emily, the iPad recipient, is excited about the trial, but Lizzie has her doubts.

“I definitely wanted an iPad and I am sad I didn’t get one,” Lizzie said. “But I think the iPads have great potential for distraction and I’m worried some of my classmates will abuse the privilege.”

This has been a common fear amongst students and staff. Clark is not as worried. “We are talking to the students about what it means to be a digital citizen and how technology is a great tool, but must be used responsibly.”

The twins worry about theft, and are skeptical of the teachers’ abilities to limit their classmates’ misuse. Both are disappointed they cannot be a part of the trial together.
The first couple days iPad recipients attended lectures on the responsibility that comes with this new technology. Thus far, the iPads have been used to take notes and Emily says they will be assigned a project using iMovie in the weeks to come.

Nick Carpenter, Michael McAlister, and Clark hosted two informational meetings to involve the parents and answer any questions they had. In general, parents wanted to know what the iPads would be used for and if there is a way to filter content. At school, the administration can block sites that are “inappropriate for school use,” but at home, Internet filtration is completely up to the parents.

According to Poling, “iMat students will be using iPads for note taking, research, School Loop, writing, and a host of other creative and productive tasks.”
Clark said the iMat teachers have worked all summer to develop different programs for their classes. These programs intend to enhance learning and allow greater room for growth in the classroom.

iPads could increase the potential for academic dishonesty, could become a distraction in the classroom, and could create a new level of theft possibilities. The freshmen will be held responsible for their actions. All the iPads are insured, and if lost, damaged, or stolen, students will be expected to pay the $45 insurance fee, but not the $500 market price.
The four teachers pioneering the iMat trial, Poling, Amy Krochmal, Kelly Ginocchio, and Carolyn Cahill, along with Clark are collaborating to figure out what works and what doesn’t.

“If this trial is successful, we are looking at having visitors and making partnerships with app development companies. The possibilities are endless,” Clark said.
Clark stressed that these iPads are a trial. Next year, assuming the trial works, the school may target a different grade or different subject.

“I think the most exciting thing about being an iMat is the trust I feel the school has given us,” said Emily. “In middle school they watched our every move and never gave us any freedom. Hopefully our class can handle this responsibility and my sister, along with the rest of the grade, will receive iPads next year.”