Tablets Changing Math Education in Wisconsin School

There’s a marked difference between the tools being used in Holly Blocker’s geometry class this year and last, and it is the difference that might be surprising to some but familiar to those who’ve been paying attention to the technology trends in education. The Green Bay Press Gazette writes that starting this fall, students in [...]

There’s a marked difference between the tools being used in Holly Blocker’s geometry class this year and last, and it is the difference that might be surprising to some but familiar to those who’ve been paying attention to the technology trends in education. The Green Bay Press Gazette writes that starting this fall, students in Northeastern Wisconsin Lutheran High School will be using more than just their protractors when trying understand Euclid. They’ll be employing Apple’s popular tablet, the iPad, as well.

The N.E.W. Lutheran is part of a trend that has schools bringing technology into the classroom by equipping their students with tablets in hopes that it’ll provide an efficient, cost-effective replacement for traditional texts. Lutheran’s program is one of the more common: iPads are issued to each student and are to be used both in class and at home. The expenses associated with the program are partially recouped via technology fees charged to the parents. If a student already owns an iPad, parents pay $75. If the family chooses to take advantage of the school’s lease program, they pay $275.

It has only been a week since they have debuted in N.E.W.’s halls but Blocker says she has really noticed the impact. The students make extensive use of several apps, including a math dictionary and several reference websites, and even take pictures of the blackboard with the tablet’s camera in order to save time with note-taking. Incidentally, for some, the tablet has supplanted the notebook entirely, so all the writing in class is done using the touchscreen.

“It really is such a great resource,” Blocker said. “The students love the opportunity to use it.”

When Lutheran’s one-to-one iPad program was being considered, administrators made the decision to allow the teachers to determine how best use the device. Chris Nelson, the school principal, believes that how the iPads are utilized varies greatly from classroom to classroom.

Blocker, for example, expects about half of math tests will be done on the iPad and half with traditional pencil and paper.

“Math is about training the brain,” she said. “You still have to be able to understand how to work problems without looking things up.’”

Students also must turn in homework on paper. “There’s not a good math keyboard,” Blocker said. “Having them write it out would be tedious.”

The school also enforces a strong proper use policy, with teachers empowered to take away the devices in case of violations. Blocker calls this her “Hands up!” drill. The words are called out, and if she observes someone furtively swiping something off screen, she will confiscate the tablet.

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