K-12 learners studying at the Burris Laboratory School have been using iPads as a learning tool this year.
Thanks to a grant of $200,000 by the Indiana Department of Education, the school's kindergarten through to fifth grade students and their teachers have been equipped with their own iPads.
The Apple products have been used to promote interactivity in conjunction with technology use in the classroom. From using their tablets to take pictures in scavenger hunts to producing public safety announcements, students are able to upload their projects to a classroom blog.
The blog can be accessed publicly, and parents are able to receive email notifications when new items are posted.
Stefanie Onieal, first-grade teacher at Burris, considers it a wonderful experience. However, the teachers make sure iPad use does not dominate classroom learning.
At most, the Apple devices are used for 40 minutes per day. School curriculum content takes priority, and according to Onieal: "We are just trying to come up with new ways that enhance that curriculum with technology."
The teachers at the Burris Laboratory School also make use of Twitter; posting photos and status updates on a regular basis.
The idea of a school equipping students with mobile devices in comparison to 'bring your own device' policies being considered by schools currently appeals to me far more as an ex-teacher. I am an advocate of using technology in classrooms; to me, it seems that by not doing so is a wasted resource.
However, by relying on students equipping themselves, you run the risk of causing divides between the 'haves' and 'have nots'. Bullying is always going to be an issue, and exposing children that can't afford the latest gadget is not acceptable. It can be bad enough if you don't have the latest 'must have' trainers or coat.
I'm also interested to know whether schools will claim responsibility for devices that they insist students bring, and foot the bill if one is stolen.
Instead, by implementing technology use in this manner, children not only learn about how to use these devices in a more engaging learning experience, but are kept on a uniform level.
It's not only the students that are able to benefit. The introduction of devices like iPads can also be a way to teach the staff themselves how to implement and use them as a valuable teaching tool. As a means of teacher development, learning at the same time as your students is an engaging experience, and can be far more valuable than workshops.
In four years, the only technological training I had for classroom teaching across Europe and in the U.K was how to use the VCR. It's about time that changed.
Onieal believes that this will be the future for classroom study. After viewing the classroom blog, I can see the potential within it to include parents more in their children's education, and allow students to feel more confident in displaying their work.
As well as allowing parents to view their children's work online, it could also be a way to nurture students' interest in technology at an early age. Some of the students at the school have already contributed to new methods of using the mobile devices; for example, expressing a wish to begin an online newspaper. This is due to start in January.
As long as schools ensure that the use of devices like iPads are controlled properly, I think that it can be a valuable method to help prepare children for careers in an economy that is heavily reliant on technology use, as well as improve learning in classrooms.