iPads Become a Requirement at Illinois High School

This fall each of the 230 students attending the Metro-East Lutheran High School in Illinois will be required to have an iPad, and even the school’s 18 teacher will be sporting the gadget bought and paid for out of the school’s technology budget. The tablet will become an all-purpose tool used for writing homework, taking notes in class, and following along as the teacher presents material during lessons.

Each student’s iPad will sport a number of popular apps designed to aid in learning. Calendar, Pages and Notability will take the place of notebooks and day planners, white Google Earth and MyCongress will replace old-fashioned and dusty classroom maps and a bulky U.S. Government and Civics textbooks. The objective of the program seems to be go paper-free as much as possible: students will use the touch-sensitive screen to take tests online and will be required to email in, rather than hand in, their homework.

[School principal Curtis] Wudtke said integrating electronic devices into the school’s curriculum enables the high school to keep up with the educational landscape.

“Education is changing from the standpoint that for years, teachers have been presenters of information and helping students apply that information,” Wudtke said. “But there is a shift going on where the main role is helping students determine what information is reliable, unbiased and usable.”

Although the iPad won’t take the place of every textbook, Wudtke hopes it will serve to further engage students while they’re learning. It will definitely serve to move the school away from the teaching paradigm that has students acting as passive receptacles of information offered by their instructors. Instead, he hopes that by using the iPad, teachers will train students in intelligently evaluating and determining the veracity of the information they come across themselves.

Vicki Gillespie, one of Metro-East’s science teachers, said that she isn’t quite ready to abandon textbooks in all her classes, but she’s switching to a digital edition of her environmental sciences text. She admits to feeling a little intimidated by the technology, but her fear is tempered by the excitement of seeing what kind of an impact iPads will have on her students.

Gillespie said she saw last year how technology can improve a student’s ability to learn. One of her students struggled with taking notes.

“At Christmas, his parents bought him an iPad and he could really manipulate that note-taking app,” Gillespie said. “He was either typing in his notes, or writing them using the stylus — he even took photos of my notes on the board. Being able to use that technology really engaged him. His grade went up by two letters.”

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