Teachers are finding that classroom learning opportunities expand with a new iPad program rollout. In Minnesota the iPad rollout is part of a broader district-wide initiative called Transforming Thinking Through Technology, or T3, that is changing learning in local classrooms.
Digital learning is changing the traditional lecture format by enabling students to play a more active role in the classroom, since their iPads allow them to access much of the same material as the teachers.
Administrators hope the nearly 5,000 mobile devices will help students engage more productively with the course material, their teachers and fellow students.
Midway through the school year, the desired digital synergy between teachers and students and the iPads appears to be developing, district officials said.
“I would say that we are thoughtfully optimistic,” said Principal Kerry Timmerman, when asked about the implementation at Park High School. “What we don’t want to do is to say, ‘They’re great,’ just because we have them. We want to know that what we’re doing with them is impacting students.”
The rollout wasn’t without some glitches, Timmerman said. Some classrooms at Park had spotty connectivity at the beginning of the school year. Parts of the building had to be retrofitted to increase wireless capacity.
Digital Learning not replacing 3 Rs
Officials point out that the iPads are not replacing the traditional three Rs. While students can do algebra problems using the touch screen function and take history notes on Notability, a note-taking app, they also can use pen and paper. The iPads have filters that allow the district to block potentially distracting websites and social media apps such as the photo-sharing service SnapChat.
“In the past it was cellphones,” Timmerman said. “We’re not trying to make the device the problem. At the end of the day we stress it’s a tool for learning and not the be all end all.”
The iPads may even eliminate weather-related school cancellations. Recent “snow days” may have idled school busses, but that didn’t stop teachers from assigning homework, according to Keith Ryskoski, assistant superintendent for secondary education.
“When we had those cold days they had things up for kids to be working on even though they weren’t in school,” he said.
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