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Guest Blog from Amy Estes (@justatitch): iPads in the Classroom

by Amy Estes

Amy Estes is a high school English teacher residing in Sacramento, CA. When she's not teaching, she loves cheering on the San Francisco Giants, playing with her iPhone and iPad, and writing her blog, Just A Titch.

I have been teaching English to middle and high school students for over four years now, and I can personally attest to the fact that iPads in the classroom are a game-changer. Today’s students are modern and computer-savvy and desperately seeking something that will hold their attention. At home, they’re surrounded by the latest technology, but schools have not caught up to these trends. We wonder why students are bored, but if you examine all of the technology they get to play with, and compare it to the books and tools used in our classrooms, it’s no surprise that they prefer to spend hours on YouTube and playing with their iPods. Schools need to catch up, and use of iPads in the classroom is one inspiring way to do so.

Schools all over the United States are putting iPads in the hands of their students because of the enormous benefits of using electronic devices. Students can use apps to help stay organized, utilize cloud computing in order to collaborate with both peers and teachers, and make use of amazing iPad apps across all disciplines.

The first benefit to using the iPad is fairly obvious: no more books. By using the iPad as a textbook, schools avoid the costly replacement of books due to normal wear and tear. Instead of adopting an entirely new curriculum, districts can simply update electronic textbooks as necessary. One Georgia school district currently estimates that they spend around $40 million dollars per year on books. While the cost of purchasing iPads for all students may be initially very high, the cost is minimal when one considers textbook adoptions to keep information current and replacing texts year after year due to wear and tear and needs for updates. Students would also get a break from carrying around heavy books, often associated with back strain and other issues.

But the benefits of the iPad are even more extensive. Math classes can use apps that allow students to chart and graph equations quickly and easily. For example, the app Graphing Calculator HD allows students to quickly solve and graph equations. By simply holding up their iPads, math teachers can check for understanding. Younger students can benefit from any number of math games, such as Fraction Factory or Number Line.

Science comes alive in the classroom with apps like Star Walk for iPad and The Elements: A Visual Exploration. Other apps like 3D Cell Simulation help abstract concepts come to life quickly and easily. No more spending money on lab supplies—concepts are demonstrated quickly and neatly right on the iPad.

The uses of the iPad in English class are endless. From eBook reading (no more trips to the library — allow students to download eBooks right in class!) to more complex uses such as digital storytelling with StoryKit, the possibilities are amazing. Students who struggle with sequencing their papers effectively can make use of helpful apps such as Idea Sketch as a way to organize pre-writing activities.

Baylor School in Chattanooga, Tennessee, has already begun implementing the iPad into their classrooms. According to an article in Chattanoogan.com, Baylor School junior Zach Watson says, “[The iPad] has been a tremendous help in many aspects, especially regarding its convenience and the weight of my backpack, which used to weigh 20 pounds or more because of the textbooks. The iPad has been a valuable tool, and I look forward to further implementing it into my learning.”

As schools across the country implement similar programs, it won’t be long before the backpack goes away completely, and in its place we see a sleek, clean iPad case.

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