Students stock up on iPads, ebooks
TRIPS TO OFFICEMAX to fill up on pencils, filler paper, binders, and notebooks for the first day of school could soon go the way of the horse and buggy, replaced by trips to the Apple store to pick up iPads and iPad Apps.
This September, BC High’s seventh through tenth graders will be required to obtain iPads as part of their school supply list. They join schools like Burlington High School and Sacred Heart High School in Kingston that have purchased iPads for their entire student body with the goal of cutting textbook costs and taking advantage of a wide variety of digital learning resources.
At BC High, a private school in Dorchester where students must pay for their own textbooks, administrators expect the iPads to pay for themselves in cost-savings from buying ebooks instead of regular textbooks. Charlie Drane, the BC High Academic Vice Principal, said many textbooks can cost between $100 and $200 each, but the e-versions of those books are priced significantly lower. “In one class alone, it’s a $100 savings,” Drane said.
Drane estimated that “potentially in two years, but certainly in three years,” students will recoup the cost of their $399 iPad in textbook savings.
Not only do the e-books cost less, Drane said, but they come with more features to aid learning than the regular books do.
Although the iPads are primarily for textbooks, teachers at BC High, who have already been equipped with their own iPads by the school, plan to use them for other activities. “There will be many different uses for it both in the classroom and out of the classroom, on top of the textbook replacement,” Drane said.
The iPads can save paper, allowing students to turn in their assignments to their teachers in digital form. Their teachers can grade them electronically and even record their comments for the student in audio form.
The idea for using iPads at BC High first surfaced in 2010, when the school’s director of technology got an iPad. He saw the potential for its use in the classroom, and last year the school purchased iPads for every member of the BC High faculty. Drane said letting the faculty use the iPads for a year gave them a sense of their value in the classroom. When it came time to decide whether to make iPads a part of the curriculum, the faculty was in full support. “It was very clear where everyone stood,” Drane said.
The school decided they would require students to purchase the iPads on their own rather than the school buying them, in part to allow students to consider the device their own. So far, reaction from students has been overwhelmingly positive but parents are a little more hesitant, Drane said.
The biggest issues that parents are concerned about are safety and security. A significant chunk of BC High students use public transportation to get to school, and parents are worried their sons’ iPads will be stolen or lost. Other parents are concerned their sons will access websites they shouldn’t go on to, or that their sons already spend too much time connected to technology.
“We’re trying to do what we can to allay some of those fears,” Drane said. The school intends to bring in a Massachusetts State Police officer to school early in the year to talk to students about iPad safety. The school is also encouraging students to purchase insurance for their iPads to address the issue of theft or breakage. The school also sees the iPads as a great opportunity to educate students about the resources available to them through technology, while also showing them how to be responsible on the web.
Ryan Bernardi, who is from Milton and is entering the tenth grade at BC High this year, said he is in favor of the iPads but thinks it may take some getting used to if teachers are asking students to use the device as a replacement for a notebook in class.
“I think one challenge will be to take notes,” Bernardi said.
Bernardi, who already had an iPad and had used it in some classes last year where teachers permitted them, is already seeing significant savings from textbook purchases. As for concerns about loss or breakage, Bernardi said he keeps it safely in his backpack when traveling to and from school on the Red Line. “I always check to make sure I have it,” he said.
He also pointed out that the Apple store sells cases to prevent the iPad from breaking if it is dropped.
By: Sam Obar – August 27, 2012
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