Pennsylvania School Districts Embrace iPads, Chromebooks

In Pennsylvania, many school districts have adopted iPads and other mobile, personalized educational technologies to create a learning environment that is more “streamlined and seamless,” writes John Kopp of Delaware County Daily Times.

In 2012, Haverford Senior High School introduced iPad Minis to its students, who use them in the classroom two or three times a week. They allow a teacher to send problems to students using his/her own own mobile device, and then students use their iPads to do the work. With a simple tap, the teacher can project any of students’ work onto a Smart Board for the entire class to view.

Education technology experts say that iPads and tablet keep students more engaged, but teachers have also noticed that students who are too shy to complete a problem on the whiteboard are more willing to share their work when using an iPad.

The Haverford Senior High School is using the Insight 360 app to collect performance data on each of the students, allowing teachers to instantly see the exact concepts a student has mastered or struggled to comprehend.

“It’s being used as a tool for engagement and assessment and real-world learning,” said Jane Greenspun, the district’s director of technology services. “It’s not all bells and whistles, but it definitely engages students.”

Haverford uses Google Drive, a free online program that enables students to access all of the documents, presentations and digital resources needed for their classes. The program also allows students to create, store and share documents. In addition, the district has purchased 100 Chromebooks, which are specifically designed to utilize web-based services instead of software programs stored on the computer.

Kathy Bowes, director of Widener University’s Instructional Technology masters program, said children learn “totally different” than previous generations because they have been brought up in a digital world where mobile devices, wireless Internet and video games are the norm.

Bowes said iPads are more user-friendly than laptops and include apps far more affordable than comparable computer programs. “The iPads are like God’s gift to a school district,” Bowes said. “If you buy in quantity, you can get a very good price on them.”

Ridley School District spent three years planning for its ed-tech rollout, including the launch of a pilot program with kindergarten classes. It cost about $3 million to equip each of its students with iPads after receiving roughly a 50% discount. Parents are required to pay $30 per device for technical fees if the student wishes to use the device at home.