Tablets keep students engaged

Brydon Lowey is the first to admit he doesn’t care for folders, pens and paper when it comes to learning.

The Grade 9 student at Miller Comprehensive High School in Regina has a new tool at his fingertips which has helped his marks skyrocket over recent months – an iPad.

He is so much more into his schoolwork these days that he’ll happily continue working on the device long after he gets home from school.

He talks less in class, enjoys his subjects more and even scours the App Store for applications that might be useful to his teacher, Jodi Wilton.

Lowey’s biggest gripe? “We don’t use it in math yet, but I wish we did, because I kinda suck at math,” he laughs.

The school is in the beginning stages of a three-year pilot project which has already seen 20 staff members integrate iPads into their classes. Three classrooms also have sets of iPads for student use, or students can bring their own – or another similar device – from home.

Lowey’s classmates Austin Thiemann and Jensen Hirsch agree students are more interested and engaged now that they use the tablets.

“Everyone’s more interested and more willing to do the work rather than just show up to class,” Hirsch says.

“It gets you excited for class,” Thiemann agrees.

“Obviously we need paper and pens and we won’t be using technology all the time, but every now and again it’s good to use them.”

Wilton says the reaction has been similar from most students and their teachers.

“Students are more prepared. They’re done their tasks by the end of class and there’s been a distinct increase in engagement,” she says.

The project came about after Miller principal Jamie Bresciani and vice-principal Kimberly Marshall attended a San Francisco conference about technology and learning, which took them to Monta Vista School – the first school in North America to use only iPads.

“I was completely blown away by what we observed there, and we wanted to explore something like that here,” Bresciani says.

Because Miller isn’t private and can’t dictate that each student must have an iPad, the school applied to Regina Catholic Schools for a grant aimed at schools looking to integrate innovative learning techniques into classrooms.

O’Neill High School in Regina has a similar pilot project in place.

Aren’t teachers concerned students will spend all class on Facebook and Twitter if they have smart devices and tablets?

“No, not at all,” Bresciani says. “Really, it’s no different to 50 years ago when we used to pass notes. This isn’t going to change the challenge of getting students focused, but we’re finding they are a lot more on task.”

He puts that partly down to the fact the school isn’t removing technology from students’ hands when they walk through the doors, but rather that technology is being used in a beneficial manner.

“There are digital textbooks they can use where they can click on a link to see a video of an experiment happening, or seeing an animal,” he says.

“It’s taking everything to a different level.”


Paul Champion

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Twitter: @blogapprentice
Skype: paulchampion31

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