iMats Trial Will Influence Future Students

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Liz Berndt, Editor-in-Chief

This year, about half the freshmen were given iPads in an attempt to assess the positives and negatives of technology in the classroom.

Principal Adam Clark thinks the trial was a success. The goal of the trial was to generate more collaboration between departments and create a more integrated learning experience. Clark referred to these teacher collaborations as “professional learning communities.” Because the same students go from first period English to second period World History, these teachers can potentially coordinate sharing time and the possibility of keeping students longer if need be.

Fifty-four parents of the 120 iPad holding students took a survey to explain their thoughts on the trial. Thirty-seven percent of the parents said their students were motivated by iPads. Seventy percent said they saw an increase in enthusiasm for learning. Overall, the response from the parents was positive, and they agreed that the trial was a success.

However, some students saw the iPads as a distraction. Many said they spent most of their time playing games and not using them for educational purposes. “It was extremely distracting during class and when I was trying to study for tests because I had all of my social media mixed with my school work. I had a hard time balancing both,” freshman Emily Fabian said.  Clark said he has not heard about iPad distraction in class and that he has heard more complaints about cell phone use.

“I don’t think the non-iPad classes got a worse education, but I do think the iPad classes got more done in terms of the curriculum. They definitely got through a few more sections than we did,” non-iPad holder freshman Lizzy Fabian said.

Miramonte is expanding the iMats program with money from the Educational Fund of Orinda and Parents Club.  Next year, 90 freshman, 60 juniors and all AP English students will receive iPads. There will be three set classes of 30 freshmen who have the same Biology, World History and English class. There will be two classes of juniors who have the same English and US History class, both non-advanced classes.

When the idea was first proposed, “red flags went up all over the place,” Clark said. The administration was afraid of theft and damages, and they didn’t know if this was too big of a responsibility. The school, however, has made preventative strides to avoid theft; the technology staff made it impossible for stolen iPads to be wiped and reconfigured, making the stolen iPad essentially a useless brick. Again to prevent theft, students were asked to put a passcode on their iPad. Clark says only one or two iPads were stolen and the Find My iPhone app proved helpful in finding misplaced iPads.

Clark hopes that students will feel comfortable bringing their own devices to school. “We would really like to get to a place where kids are bringing their own,” said Clark. “If you bring your own and we have apps you want we’ll give them to you.”

Bring Your Own Device or “BYOD” as Clark calls it, is the push for the future. Clark has installed an Apple TV in all classrooms where teachers are interested in technology. “The thing that hinders technology is when people are uncomfortable with it,” Clark said.

Although Clark cannot force teachers to use technology, he says that we, as a school and as a country, are moving away from pencil and paper. “Technology supports students’ learning, and we want to support our students,” Clark said.

Emily agreed that the iPads made learning more convenient, and moving away from pen and paper is a good thing. “My favorite thing was having all my notes and worksheets on the iPad because it was so much neater and a lot less to carry around,” Emily said.

Clark has ordered a set of generation two iPads for next year. He is curious about iPad minis, but Acalanes will be piloting the iPad minis next year