Concord, NH Debates Buying iPads for Students in Algebra I

The Instructional Committee of the Concord, New Hampshire School Board has released its recommendation that the district spend $30,000 to upgrade its science and mathematics high school teaching materials. The committee further recommended that nearly half of that sum be spent on equipping the students with iPads to be used in Algebra I class. The new devices will be used as textbook replacements in up to six sections of the course starting this fall.

Tamara Hatcher, the district's high school math facilitator, explained that iPads would take the course from rote memorization and "showing your work," to something that will allow students to argue and discuss mathematical and logic concepts, and use ideas from other students to determine the answer and defend it.

The course teachers spent the past year developing the curriculum, and couldn't find a traditional textbook that approached the material in a way that would support their work. Instead, they found interactive apps, online homework sets and other technological advances that the iPads would support.

The devises themselves would cost $13,740, with an additional $3,500 going toward protective cases, a charging cart, an Apple laptop for the teachers and another Apple device to link the iPads to a projector system.

Although the board members seemed receptive to the recommendation, there was one who asked for one additional thing: proof he could see and evaluate. Clint Cogswell, a member of the Instructional Committee, asked Hatcher if she might bring one of the iPads to be used in the class to the next meeting of the board. Cogswell said that he was inclined to view the committee's recommendation in the positive light, but wanted an opportunity to play with the gadget to be used by the students just to make sure.

Algebra I teachers will still have an opportunity to use traditional textbooks if they so choose, but the benefits of using the iPad were just too numerous to forgo it entirely. Through the device, students will have access to interactive learning programs, receive instant feedback, personalized assignments, and have a chance to practice writing about mathematics — something that will be required under the upcoming Common Core Standards adoption.

The committee also recommended buying textbooks for three new science courses starting this fall.

With almost $12,500, the district will purchase books for two sections of earth science, 60 students in astronomy and 27 students in Advanced Placement Environmental Science.

In the budget process this spring, administrators had indicated they might purchase technology like iPads for those courses, too, but teachers decided if there wasn't enough money, they would request texts, said high school science facilitator Lise Bofinger.

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