iPads take over 9th grade at Minnetonka High School
MINNETONKA, Minn. – Backpacks are lighter this year for ninth graders at Minnetonka High School.
“I have most of my textbooks in iBooks,” said 9th grader Rachel Marks. That not only makes her load lighter, Marks can highlight text and digitally assemble all of her notes in an iBook, something she can’t do in a school textbook. It’s just one aspect of a pilot program Minnetonka High School unveiled this year — to put iPads in the hands of students.
“We’ve long believed in technology as an accelerator of learning,” explained Julie Carter, Executive Director of Technology for Minnetonka Public Schools. The district has been digitizing its curriculum for the past decade, and was looking for a way to put that information in the hands of students. Laptops had drawbacks, including price, so when the iPad came along, Minnetonka took notice, and developed a plan that hinged on a key requirement. “Identifying a group of students that we could work with to have a controlled experiment where we could see, ‘How does the technology change the learning experience for students?’” said Carter.
Minnetonka started by issuing iPads to half the 9th grade class, and using the other half of the class to compare. Teachers quickly noted some changes for the iPad group.
“Student engagement,” said English teacher Sara Martinson. “They seem to be more involved in what they are doing.”
The district also saw fewer D’s and F’s in the iPad group, as well as fewer late and missing assignments. Armed with that information, the district proceeded to give iPads to the other half of the ninth grade.
Now, teachers are incorporating the iPad into daily use. Science teacher Drew Danner says it doesn’t work for everything, but many applications are proving useful for students, including one that allows students to take tests and have their results recorded in real time.
“Now they can go back on their practice tests or their quizzes and they can look at, ‘Hey, I need to work on this certain set of problems,’” said Danner.
Danner is also able to plug important dates and assignments into students’ Google calendars, which they can pull up on their iPads anytime they want.
Students’ work is saved in “the cloud” so if an iPad should break, or be lost, the work is accessible from any computer or internet device. Carter says so far, there have been few issues of screens breaking, and no iPads have been lost.
Looming in the future for Minnetonka, the need to purchase new textbooks for two core subjects. At $100 a pop for a traditional copy, Apple’s recent announcement it will be offering more textbooks at $14.99 in iBooks could prove to be a real cost-saver for the district.
If this year’s pilot project continues to go well, Minnetonka hopes to use iPads at the 10th grade level, and continue expanding from there.
Minnetonka has created a series of tutorials for students and teachers to learn how to use and take care of their iPads.