You are here


Glastonbury (Conn.) Public Schools is the latest district to roll out a plan to provide iPads to its 2,200 high school students—and it is only the first step to significantly reduce textbook costs and focus on providing a 21st-century learning environment for its students.

A Griegos Elementary School student in Albuquerque uses an iPad in the library, which has a portable cart of about 30 iPads—known as Computers on Wheels.

For years, there’s been an ongoing discussion about the digital divide between the “haves” and the “have nots.” As technology has advanced, so has that gap, which is driving fundamental changes in how we work, learn, and live.

Administrators, educators, and nonprofit entities nationwide have been trying to lessen that gap over the past decade. With newer, lighter technologies like tablets and ultra-light laptops like the MacBook Air, some schools are considering getting rid of textbooks altogether and going digital.

A strong strategy and rock-solid network foundation are necessary to successfully implementing iPads in schools. Administrators in San Francisco’s Archbishop Riordan High School decided to implement a 1:1 iPad environment beginning as a voluntary program in 2012, taking on all infrastructure obstacles head-on. With parent, student, and teacher feedback and support, iPads will then be a mandatory purchase for the 2013-2014 school year.

Apple reports that 1.5 million iPads are used in K12. Given that there are approximately 55 million students in K12, the iPad has penetrated K12 faster than any other computing technology. And the tech tsunami doesn’t seem to be slowing down. We have seen this type of excitement before with desktops and then again with laptops, although their rates of growth in K12 were slower. Each time the expectations for what the computing device would do for education were sky high, and each time there was disappointment.

With over 200,000 applications available for Apple’s iPad and thousands more for Android devices, educators and students must sift through a lot of apps to find effective learning tools. An app is software that allows users to perform specific tasks on a mobile device.

A Pew Internet study released in April, “The Rise of e-Reading,” notes a gathering American trend of embracing digital content. The report found that 43 percent of Americans age 16 or older have read an e-book or other long-form digital material, such as a magazine article, over the past year. Of those in this age group who read every day or almost every day for work or school, 54 percent use tablets or other e-book readers. The report also says that those who read with e-book devices read more than others, and that portability and speedy access are major drivers of this trend.

Sixth-graders from the Wayland-Cohocton Middle School in New York train on Toshiba tablets, which the school won in a 2010 Win a Wireless Lab Sweepstakes.

Tablets have come a long way since Apple launched its pioneering Newton MessagePad in 1993, the first Internet-connected flat-screen device pairing a stylus with handwriting-recognition software. Since then, computer hardware companies have been refining and experimenting with the concept of Internet-connected tablet computing devices. The personal digital assistant (PDA), convertible laptop/tablets, dual-screen booklet tablets, e-book readers and other designs have been among the many iterations of tablet computers, sometimes known as slates or media tablets.

Amelia Earhart Middle School in Riverside, CA was selected by the district to pilot HMH Fuse: Algebra I, a new comprehensive educational program designed for the iPad. As a school that has experience with forward-moving technology, the educators at Earhart devised a strategic plan to utilize HMH Fuse: Algebra with students randomly assigned to use the app in comparison with those using a textbook for an entire school year. The results of the implementation were impressive: students using the HMH Fuse app were more motivated, more attentive in class, and more engaged with Algebra content relative to students using textbooks. 

Since the launch of the Iphone 4s in Oct. 2011, siri, a voice-activated response system, has been considered all the rage. Voice activation may take a back seat, however, as new technology that uses one’s eyes to activate the screen, scroll through Web pages and play games makes its debut.

Four doctorate students at the IT University of Copenhagen presented their new software last June at Startup Weekend, an intensive boot camp for entrepreneurs. They have since won four technology awards and founded Senseye, a technology startup company based in Copenhagen.

In Central Alabama at the junction of the coastal plains and the Piedmont Plateau, lies the swiftly growing, geographically diverse city of Auburn. Auburn boasts a nationally recognized school system that's as much a draw as the unique terrain and the anchoring presence of historic Auburn University.