by Silvia Cardona
(with reports from The New York Times)
As a ninth grader at McClymonds, I was excited by the promise of being among the first students in the district to use an iPad to learn algebra, keep track of homework and email my teachers.
That promise never came true. At least not this year.
Once again, at McClymonds, we are behind the times in the use of technology and in educational innovation.
Just look around. The New York Times says that a growing number of schools in the country — most in wealthy districts — are using the iPad to teach algebra (using a Houghton Mifflin only for iPad program) as well as history.
That was the plan at McClymonds.
In an email response, principal Kevin Taylor told macksmack: that the alumni and administration made a commitment to secure the iPads and that the alumni association raised over 80 percent of the funding. Teachers were planning to use them in conjunction with the SMART boards and the iPads were to be used in the classroom.
So what happened?
Two problems arose, says Taylor. Bureaucracy or the need for signatures outside of McClymonds. And then, of course, “security” for the iPads. “We don’t have the funding to properly secure the ipads here on campus. ” It makes sense with computers and cameras stolen out of classrooms. Recently a student’s iPod disappeared off her desk. Another ‘s shuffle was stolen last week.
In the meantime, students are grumbling. “What a major let-down,” said Astlee Carver, a 9th grader. “”It’s not fair for anyone who is less fortunate and doesn’t have access to technology.”
“Having an iPad would mean that we wouldn’t have to carry a ton of books,” says Khristian Antoine, a 9th grader.
Besides saving students’ backs and serving as research tools, iPads can make a difference in classroom learning. Roslyn High School in New York gave 47 iPads to the students and teachers in two humanities classes. The school district plans to hand out iPads to 1,100 students.
The iPads — at $750 apiece –are used in class and at home during the school year to replace heavy textbooks, to email teachers and to turn in papers and homework.
Not everyone believes that technology improves learning. The New York Times says that educators disagree over whether giving every student a laptop makes a difference academically.
While schools are cutting programs and laying off teachers, should they spend money on iPads? What if they’re free?
“There is very little evidence that kids learn more, faster or better by using these machines,” Larry Cuban, a Stanford professor emeritus, told The New York Times. Cuban feels that the money would be better spent to train and retain teachers. “iPads are marvelous tools to engage kids, but then the novelty wears off and you get into hard-core issues of teaching and learning.”