Paper and pencils are old school when you have iPads in the classroom

By Scott Jones,
Courtesy of MCT

SANTA CRUZ, Calif. – At Monte Vista Christian School, history textbooks could soon be a relic of the past. Ditto for tomes on biology and English literature. And spiral-bound notebooks and pens – who needs them?

They’re so old school when you have a 16GB iPad, and Monte Vista has 60 of the latest must-have technology from Apple for use in classrooms. The iPads were introduced Thursday to advanced placement students who will participate in a pilot project. If all goes well, Headmaster Stephen Sharp anticipates replacing heavy and expensive textbooks with cheaper, interactive e-versions.

Sharp believes the school is among the first to adopt iPads, but it won’t be the last.

“There are many academic advantages,” he said. “They provide new access to photos, videos, daily newspapers and resource material that enhance the curriculum.”

English teacher Marcus Schwager showed his students how with a click they could look up unfamiliar words in Shakespeare’s “The Tempest,” discovering the meaning as well as the pronunciation.

Science teacher Cynthia Armstrong led her students through an interactive display of a cutaway view of the female body, demonstrating the zoom function for closer looks.

“It has lots of bells and whistles you don’t have in a print textbook,” she said.

“I’m really new to it but I’m super-excited to use the iPad,” history teacher Greg Davis told his sophomore advanced placement students.

Do his students want to copy a graph he draws on the board? There’s an app for that. How about checking comprehension with a pop quiz? Students find out immediately whether they answered correctly, and an explanation is just a click away.

If he’s lecturing, they can type their notes using the flat-screen keyboard, and if he’s talking too fast and a student misses something, well, there’s an app for that too.

SoundPaper gives students the ability to record the lecture for listening later at home. Sitting at tables, iPads propped before them in black cloth cases, students tapped icons to bring up pages.

“It’s a little easier to use,” said sophomore Alyssa Villanueva, 15, comparing the iPad to a textbook. “You can really focus on where you’re studying.”

For now, students will have to e-mail their notes to an account they can access at home since the iPads are for classroom use only. Students also will use their accounts to access e-textbooks at home. The tablets retail for $499 each, but Apple provided a $50 school discount, he said. Electronic textbooks, which are increasingly available, cost about a third of print versions.

Apple also has a program to train teachers to use the technology, Sharp said.

“The kids are going to be able to educate us too,” he said.