Originally published Nov. 1, 2012.
Even with the "glitches," Huntington North High School social studies teacher Lynn Brown says using the iPads in school makes things "infinitely better than it was without them."
Brown piloted an iPad during the 2011-12 school year and says she has been on a four-year journey to implement a one-to-one learning environment using computers in the classroom.
She teaches Viking New Tech students and advanced placement U.S. history students in a traditional classroom setting.
She says using the iPads in her classrooms is "so much better than saying, ‘here's a worksheet.'"
Brown uses the iPads to create a website for each class. She says these websites provide her students links to historical research and primary documents that are not found in textbooks.
"They give an important point of view," she says.
Her students use the iPads to create movies using iMovie and books using iBooks and iAuthor, which Brown says allows them to embed educational videos and presentations and take interactive quizzes.
Her students also use the iPads to publish their own journal entries and reflections, allowing other students to read and respond. That fosters discussions they may not have time for in the classroom, she says.
Another benefit of the iPad, Brown says, is learning the life skill of problem solving.
Her Viking New Tech students recently experienced a hiccup in creating videos for YouTube, caused by a change in the software used by the website. She says they had to find a way to finish their videos for a presentation that was only three days away.
"Students are coming up with solutions," she says, "It's not all Twitter."
Brown insists that the iPads have had a "huge impact" on her students and other students at the high school.
"Lots of people are doing wonderful things throughout the building," she adds.
She says she is confident that most teachers in the social studies department are using their iPads during a majority of the class period.
Rob Irgang, also a social studies teacher, says he uses the iPads in his classroom for research, project based learning, as a mirror (one student projecting their iPad screen for the whole classroom), creating presentations and for student interaction.
He says the iPads "allow students the ability to share with much greater ease."
He says his students post journal entries online and give each other feedback, which "gives students the capacity to expand forums of communication."
Irgang says he also sees the iPads "opening up greater flexibility to choose sources of expression."
For example, students are no longer limited to creating a Microsoft Office PowerPoint when putting together a presentation. He points out that students can use the Internet and use websites such as Prezi - a zooming presentation editor - to create a presentation.
"I like to think students are using it (the iPad) for that," he says.
Keeping focus is a challenge, he says, but he adds that is true of all situations.
Brown says the key is keeping students engaged.
"Students are going to lose focus whether it is doodling in a notebook, watching the clock, or playing a game on their iPad," she says.
"To me, it is not fretting about the technology piece, it is keeping students engaged," she continues.
"Would it have been nice to have every problem worked out before we started using the iPads? Yes, that would have been perfect - but it's not possible," she adds.
"You just work with it as you fly."