All 870 students at Hillview Middle School in Menlo Park, Calif. will soon have school-issued iPads that they can use both at school and at home. The school has slowly rolled out the program over the past three years, trying to work out the kinks before issuing the expensive devices to every student. Before students can take the devices home, they'll have to take a course to get their "digital driver license," which includes digital citizenship and learning their way around the device.
Eighth grade students at Hillview have had their iPads since the beginning of the school year. Read more on how teachers are using the devices in class so far and their hopes for the future. Here, they weigh in on how the devices change what happens in class, how they think about learning and how they organize their school work.
Click on student images to hear, in their own voices, how iPads have changed their school experience.
[Photo credit: Erin Scott]
Elley Goldberg likes almost everything about having an iPad. She says it's easier to turn in homework through school-approved apps, get feedback from teachers, find information and annotate her reading. She also likes when teachers flip their lessons, asking students to watch a video lesson at home. "It helps to do the lesson at home sometimes because then you can come into class and ask more questions rather than having a whole class that needs to ask questions at the same time during a lesson," Goldberg said.
Kyle Conrad is excited about the various apps he can use to organize his work -- not to mention that he doesn't have to carry books around. But his main complaint: Hillview has a strict policy that students can't download any new apps to their iPads. Instead, the school approves which apps will be used school wide, manages the download process and commits to supporting teachers working with those apps. But that process, as in any bureaucracy, can be slow. "My social studies teacher found this perfect app for what we were doing in social studies, but wasn't allowed to download it because the tech has to get all of our iPads and download it together," Conrad said.
Jenna Philbin finds her iPad is most valuable when she goes to study. She can easily find notes she made on a text and remind herself what the class discussed that day or a random thought she'd had. Similarly, the notes for other classes are archived and searchable so students can find them and refer back. Having the iPad at home, in addition to school, means she doesn't have to wait while other people are on the family computer; she can search online and complete her homework without time limitations.
Luke Strimbling likes using the iPad for his math assignments, especially when the class was studying geometrical constructions. "There's something called Sketchpad Explorer and we can make our own geometrical constructions or use pre-made geometrical constructions to explore various conjectures," Strimbling said. Manipulating the structures helps him understand and is a lot quicker than drawing a shape on graph paper. But not every app works perfectly and it can be frustrating to work with a glitchy app, but for Strimbling the benefits far outweigh the annoyances. "It's a cool organizational thing because I can organize it for my own personal ideas, my own settings."
Anthony Mainiero was a little more circumspect. He hates dealing with glitches and sometimes thinks pen and paper would work just as well as the $600 device his school gave him. He's got bigger requests from school. "If there's a way they could make learning more fun that would be nice," Mainiero said. "I've noticed we haven’t really done any field trips this year. It's been cut back; I'm not really sure why."