Middle School iPad Pilot a Success, May Expand Next Year

School officials are considering expanding the pilot to the entire eighth grade next year, with the cost incurred by the families.


The iPad pilot program at Blake Middle School is going so well, that all eighth grade students may have the devices next year. 

At the Jan. 14, 2013, meeting of the Medfield School Committee, students and teachers from eighth grade Stars cluster demonstrated how the iPad has enhanced their educational experience.

"The iPad pilot is meant to enhance student learning...It's been great," said Principal Nat Vaughn. "Why the iPad? For flexibility, portability, and engagement." 

The program teaches the students organization, use of digital presentation and learning tools, collaboration skills, communication skills between teachers and students, and fluid adaptation between learning and "do," Vaughn told the school committee. 

"This is their world," said Vaughn. "They are digital citizens."

Teachers Jason Heim, Seth Hellerstein, Cynthia McClelland, and Brenda Perachi demonstrated how the programs engage the students in the daily lessons and how the students can share their work with the teacher both during class and from home.

The programs also track their steps on how they solved a problem which the teachers can later review and help identify ways to improve. And the steps are saved in the computer for future reference (and test prep).

"I'm not going to lie, I forget a lot of this stuff," said student Jocelyn Fields who, along with Leah Mason demonstrated, with great ease, how the iPad works for them. "And it makes it easier for us to learn when we're actually enjoying it." 

"As a student, I feel as if you have everything in one App so you're not looking through all your papers," said Mason. "You have all the information you need on one iPad." 

Teacher Seth Hellerstein said he can add videos, polls and results, slideshows, quizzes, links, and more, to his lessons which engage the students. 

According to the school's website

...The focus of the iPad pilot is to provide tools and resources to the 21st Century Learner. Excellence in education requires that technology is seamlessly integrated throughout the educational program. Increasing access to technology is essential for that future, and one of the learning tools is the iPad. The individual use of iPads is a way to empower students to maximize their full potential and to prepare them for college and the workplace. Learning results from the continuous dynamic interaction among students, educators, parents and the extended community. Technology transforms the teacher from a director of learning to a facilitator of learning. Effective teaching and learning with iPads integrates technology into the curriculum anytime, anywhere. 

There are 80 students participating in this year's pilot with equipment purchased through the school budget with the help of the Medfield Coalition for Public Education (MCPE). 

It is suggested, however, that future iPads be purchased and owned by students (it was noted that a survey conducted last year shows that many students already have the device at home). Any student who is not able to purchase a device, will be loaned one of the 80 pilot machines that will remain in the school district.

Superintendent Robert Maguire said the district is investigating partnerships with companies that could offer students a discount from the current $600 cost, or could offer a lease or lease-to-purchase option. He said an iPad Mini would also work in the classroom, and that costs approximately $350 per unit. 

Maguire said they are thinking of expanding the program to the high school where it would be a "BYOD" (bring your own device) pilot. 

One of the advantages of an electronic device is the elimination of the bulky backpack, said Maguire. 

Such a measure could also save money in the school budget, he said.

Currently, there is a $100,000 expenditure in the budget that includes approximately $70,000 related to copiers, paper, toner, maintenance, etc. which would be lessened by the use of the electronic device. 

"I believe that, in the long run, one of the accomplishments of being able to move forward with this experiment, is being able to achieve becoming paperless with the students," Maguire said. 

If that was accomplished, he said, the district could use that $100,000 elsewhere in the budget. 


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