There was a time when one could circumvent the classrooms of Jesuit College Preparatory School without passing a single electronic device, save the occasional overhead projector. In this not-so-distant past, cell phones were a rarity on campus, and only the most dedicated programmers owned personal computers (PC’s).
These days of electronic disconnect are a thing of the past. According to a Pew Research study, 83% of American adults own cell phones, and a whopping 35% of the population owns a “smart phone.” Over the past two decades, and especially in the last five years, increasingly mobile technology has changed nearly every aspect of our everyday lives.
For more on the Pew Research report, see http://pewinternet.org/Reports/2011/Smartphones/Summary.aspx?view=all
In the classroom, technology has completely overhauled the way students work, study, and learn. Students hammer out equations into Texas Instruments calculators, take notes on laptop computers, and use their phones to record lectures. In the past two years, the advent of tablet devices has created new educational opportunities for teachers and students alike.
The meteoric rise of tablet technology has prompted many forward-thinking high schools and colleges to include the devices in a classroom setting. Next year, Jesuit Dallas will join the ranks of tablet-using schools when it incorporates the Apple iPad into its classes.
On the recommendations of Jesuit’s faculty textbook committee, the office of President Michael Earsing announced last week that iPads will be issued to students in the 2012-2013 school year. The changes, announced in the administration’s yearly tuition report, will officially bring tablet technology and its numerous benefits to Jesuit classrooms.
The decision was made on the recommendations of the textbook committee, a group of faculty members that has tirelessly researched the prospect of using eReaders in Jesuit classrooms. The committee, headed by math teacher Michelle Williams, has met every Thursday morning since last spring to research and discuss textbook opportunities going forward.
For more on the textbook committee, see https://www.jesuitroundup.org/?p=5080
Though the committee originally looked to electronic readers like the Nook or Kindle as possible school-wide devices, the growth of Apple’s iPad forced the group to shift their focus towards tablets. “When we looked at all the technology that’s come down the pike in the last ten, twenty years,” said psychology teacher Patrick Naughton, a member of the textbook committee, “we knew we had to jump on the opportunity” to use new technology.
Eventually, the search committee settled on the iPad as the ideal tablet to be incorporated in to Jesuit classrooms. “We had to take in to account all of the implications of issuing a school-wide device,” said Naughton. “After deliberation, the committee decided that the iPad would be the best uniform device.”
Jesuit’s administration was encouraged by the prospect of devices on campus and especially with the cost benefit that electronic textbooks could give to students. “In many instances, there are electronic versions of textbooks available for a fraction of the hardback cost,” said Principal Tom Garrison. “Over four years, the textbook savings add up for students.”
On the educational side, the iPad offers a slew of new learning opportunities for students. At its annual “Big Event,” at which the late Steve Jobs once changed the world with his announcement of the iPhone, Apple focused this year on education. It touted the multimedia capabilities of the iPad as a new frontier for classroom learning.
For more on Apple’s Big Event, see http://macdailynews.com/2012/01/19/macdailynews-presents-live-coverage-of-apples-big-apple-education-event/
One of the sticking points for the textbook committee was whether or not to require uniformity of device. “We decided against recommending a bring-your-own device policy,” said Naughton. “Uniformity creates a level playing field for the students and teachers; we want everyone to be looking at the same device.”
A huge benefit touted by iPad supporters is the availability of course-specific applications that offer interactive learning venues. “I’ve seen classes use certain [iPad] apps in science in particular,” noted Garrison. “The neat thing about those apps is that they keep developing them. There’s always some neat app being developed.”
For more on the education apps for the iPad 2 on Apple’s app store, see http://www.apple.com/ipad/from-the-app-store/education.html
The prospect of real-time feedback should help teachers work more closely with their students; for instance, iPads make it easy for teachers to check lecture notes and alert students on things they missed. “There’s a concept in teaching called teach a little, check a little, where teachers can check understanding before moving on” said Garrison, a former English teacher. “[The iPad] offers a way to quickly check for understanding.”
Last summer the marine biology course, a summer science elective that included two weeks of in-class study and ten days diving in the British Virgin Islands, served as a guinea pig for iPads in the classroom. In the in-class portion, biology teachers Ben Kirby and Dr. Todd Gruninger issued iPads to the students and incorporated the devices seamlessly into their course. The success of the marine biology course played a deciding role in the committee’s recommendations.
For more on the marine biology class, see https://www.jesuitroundup.org/?p=3968
Students who took the marine biology class last summer felt comfortable using the iPads. “We used our iPads for the majority of the time; almost everything was paperless,” remembers William Schneider ’12. “At first, I had trouble with the sudden change [from paper]. But I think it makes students a lot more organized. My favorite aspect was the notes function, which let me imbed recorded lectures into the class notes.”
Jesuit underclassmen, who will be issued iPads next year, are nervous about the change but excited about the capabilities. “It’ll be different. We’re changing the way people have used the classroom for the past two hundred years,” said sophomore Justin Rubenstein. “I like the possibility of using the Internet in class, with an entire library at our fingertips.”
Students also look forward to the portability that the iPad will bring by consolidating many textbooks in one place. “I like having all the books in one place,” said Parker Rice ’14 in a brief interview.
While the presence of iPads on campus will revolutionize Jesuit’s technology, don’t expect the Information Commons or computer lab classrooms to fall by the wayside. “I think iPads will bring balance to our technology,” said Principal Garrison. “There will definitely still be the need for computers.”