Written by Dr. Dan Brenner Friday, 26 November 2010 00:00
On Friday, November 12, Roslyn presented a unique training program about the Apple iPad for the benefit of school officials from districts throughout our area. Sponsored by Nassau BOCES and held at Roslyn High School, the half-day session was attended by 135 superintendents and other staff members from 65 school districts who were eager to know more about the iPad. Dr. Edward Salina, Roslyn’s assistant superintendent for administration, joined me in showing our colleagues what the iPad can do and why it has great potential as an educational tool.
Over the last several months, Roslyn has been exploring the iPad’s capabilities, and we became so excited by what it can do that we are not only developing a pilot project to test it out with our own teachers and students, but we wanted to share what we’ve learned with our colleagues in the region. We believe the iPad represents a new way of thinking about how technology can be used in schools, and will enable educators to better provide students with the 21st-century learning skills they will need to succeed.
Why has the iPad attracted so much attention from educators? Simply put, the iPad appears to be the device that we have been waiting for. For many years, educators have experimented with various models for providing computer technology to students and teaching them how best to use it to advance their knowledge and skills. For at least the last three years, we here in Roslyn had been searching for a portable device that is lighter and less expensive than a traditional laptop, but more versatile than any commercially available hand-held device. The search culminated in the release of the iPad earlier this year. It is the first device that combines some essential features: it’s much smaller and therefore more portable than a laptop; it has an interface and ease of use that is similar to many of today’s most popular mobile devices; it has a reader that more closely simulates the experience of reading a book than any previous device; and it enables the user to manage documents in folders and files, just like a “regular” computer, which is not possible with other hand-held devices.
As a result of these advances in design, the iPad has the potential to accomplish several goals at once. First, it could ultimately eliminate the need for textbooks in their traditional form, thereby reducing considerably a large budgetary item and relieving students of the burden of carrying heavy books around with them. I know that parents and educators alike will welcome the day when middle school students are no longer weighed down by a backpack laden with huge textbooks. Second, it will bring us closer to our goal of creating a paperless environment, as documents on the iPad can be easily annotated and transmitted between teachers and students without the need for a printer. Roslyn has already gone a long way towards its goal of reducing its paper usage with the introduction of a digital copy center last year. In one year, we’ve saved 5 million copies and enough money to buy 20 SMARTBoards. The iPad could take us a giant step closer to the goal of going paperless.
Finally, the iPad makes it possible to integrate many important functions in one machine, thereby providing greater efficiencies, and making it more likely that people will actually want to use it every day. For example, teachers will not only be able to prepare lessons, find online content to share with students, write comments on students’ papers and return them, send exams to the copy center for printing, and project a presentation from the iPad onto a white board, they will also be able to take attendance and prepare their grades. The PowerPoint presentation demonstrates in more detail the many ways that we anticipate the iPad will be a benefit to both teachers and students.
In Roslyn, we are carefully preparing a pilot project in which the iPad will be used by 11th and 12th graders during this school year. Before the device is put into the students’ hands, we are working to ensure that teachers are provided with appropriate training. We all know that young people learn to use any new technology effortlessly, but we’re not interested in giving them just another “cool” machine to have fun with. The experience needs to be educationally meaningful, which requires that teachers are well prepared to make full use of them from the outset.