July 12, 2012
This fall, Stevenson High School will unveil a program that promises to transform how students learn by lending them iPads for use in the classroom and at home.
The SMART iPad program — SMART stands for Stevenson Mobile Academic Real-Time Technology — will start with about 800 students enrolled in three courses: Spanish 2, Anatomy and Physiology, and Advanced Placement Music Theory. Students in these courses will receive iPads that provide access to applications, digital textbooks and other tools that will allow them to learn in ways not possible without the device. For example, students in the AP Music Theory class can download free apps that provide practice outside of class.
The iPads also will come with free iTunes accounts so students can download apps without needing credit card information. (The accounts will be set up so students can only download free apps.) Each iPad will have a bar code engraved on its back, and will have a black case that covers the screen. SHS has purchased insurance to cover damaged or lost devices.
"There are several advantages to using iPads," said Director of Information Services Doug Kahler. "The most obvious advantage is the ability to have up-to-date content at your fingertips. This is a powerful tool to empower students to maximize their full learning potential, and to prepare them for college and the workplace."
Stevenson will be rolling out the iPad loan program on a gradual basis rather than giving a device to all students and teachers right away for two main reasons: (1) cost and (2) giving teachers ample time to incorporate the technology into their courses.
If the school were to purchase approximately 4,500 iPads for all students and teachers for the 2012-13 school year, the cost would be between $2 million and $2.5 million. Distributing iPads over a three- to four-year period will spread the cost more evenly, and also would allow the school to take advantage if iPad prices drop. (The difference in cost of a digital textbook versus a printed textbook is basically nil right now.)
The second reason for a slower-paced adoption of digital textbooks is to give teachers more time to adjust to the technology. From the school’s perspective, it would be unreasonable to expect all teachers to master the new technology and adjust their classroom practices between now and August. This is why, historically, the school has used pilot programs to test new technology in the classroom before adopting it throughout the building. The teachers in the three pilot courses for 2012-13 will share their experiences and recommendations with colleagues to ensure an easier transition for those added to the program next year. This follows closely on the "Power Rangers" program that school created in the late 1990s as a way to introduce laptop computers to the teaching staff. A small number of teachers were issued laptops, then taught others how to use them, and so on.
iPad use at Stevenson is not new; the digital tablets have been available to students and teachers or more than two years. In fact, the teachers in the Anatomy and Physiology course have been using iPads regularly for two years, and the Spanish 2 instructors also have made regular use of the devices in their classrooms.
Many other students have used iPads in one or more of their classes through the school’s "i2i" program, through which teachers have begun to incorporate the devices into the courses they teach. There are about 300 iPads used in the i2i program, and another 30 iPads available for students to use in the Information and Learning Center. In classrooms and the ILC, students return the iPads before leaving the room.
For students who are unfamiliar with iPads or who need help using them, the school will set up a "SMART Desk" in the Information Services Division offices that will be open from 7 a.m. to 4 p.m. on school days. The Information Services offices are centrally located in the school, by the Technology Center, which many students refer to as the "Link Labs."
Families whose students are enrolled in Spanish 2, Anatomy and Physiology, and AP Music Theory will be receiving a letter from the school that outlines in greater detail how the SMART iPad program will work.