Sept. 21, 2011
WORCESTER, Mass. — For an increasing number of schools across the country, the ubiquitous iPad isn't just a fad, it's a way of life. In a Level Two French class at the private Bancroft School in Worcester, iPads have been woven into the curriculum. They're used interactively in the classroom and for reinforcement at home," said Nicolina Puccio, a teacher at Bancroft. "I just had [the students] download an application to practice genders which are very difficult because we just don't have that in English," she says. "They can touch the word and hear the speaker. It's really great. That's just one app of thousands."
It's a new policy this year. Students at this K-12 school are strongly encouraged to attend classes with an iPad. Next year, they'll be mandatory says Headmaster Scott Reisinger who doubles as a history teacher. "For me to be able to design lessons that use primary source documents that are available... by just touching these things is novel," Reisinger said.
At Bancroft, with the exception of students heavily dependent on financial aid, students must purchase their own iPads. Already more than 50 percent of high school students have them, and 93 percent of the middle school students do.
"The one thing that's really good is there's a camera on here so you can take a picture of the board like in Math class so you can see the steps," said seventh grade student Gina El Nesr.
Eighth grade student Jack Kates is equally enamored. "The teacher asks a question and the question gets popped up on our iPad so everyone answers the questions," he explained. "It just shows your score so you don't have to grade anything, so it's much faster for the teacher," Kates said.
Students like Kates and El Nesr have textbooks, flashcards and assignments stored on their iPads. They use them to complete homework and quizzes sent directly to and from their teachers.
Having long dreamed of these advances in technology, Headmaster Reisinger said it's now imperative to keep students at pace with a techno-centric world while also avoiding its pitfalls, like keeping students in the classroom and off less savory sites. "There's no replacement for the teacher that knows students and creates a classroom environment that is not only interesting, but worthwhile — in which students are engaged," Reisinger said. But he acknowledged that, "teachers will have to walk around a little more."
This is not an inexpensive endeavor with iPads costing roughly $500-$800 dollars per device. But Bancroft officials said there's an inherent savings with the iPad that can also be applied to public schools. "We've noticed even this year that more and more of our textbooks are available in this format and these textbooks are running 50-to-75 percent of the actual cost," Reisinger said. And with area school districts like Burlington already making the private model public, iPads could soon be as standard as notebook and pen.
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