High school is famously a time of turmoil. Mostly, it is an excuse for kids to figure out how to dress and behave and generally enter the adult world. But between all of the emotional drama, there is also occasionally learning, and while the antics are the same, and the lessons are comparable, the ways in which students ingest information is much, much different – thanks in large part to the proliferation of personal (and institutional) technology.
For the third entry in our "How the Kids Do It Now" series, The Wire looked at three devices that are changing what it means to be "in class," how students interact with their teachers, and what it takes to learn in today's classrooms – for better and worse.
Joel, a senior at Adlai E. Stevenson High School in Illinois, explained to The Wire that “Stevenson has been moving towards iPad-based classes, trying to be more environmentally friendly and use less paper.” He explained that “this year a select number of classes got them. Next year every freshman will have an iPad,” adding that the devices are handed out gratis. The program is described in a 2012 post published on the school's website:
The SMART iPad program – SMART stands for Stevenson Mobile Academic Real-Time Technology – will start with about 800 students enrolled in three courses… 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.
Meirav, a high school senior who attends New Trier High School in Winnetka, Illinois, also uses a tablet in class as part of an iPad pilot program. At first the school loaned out iPads for relevant classes, delivering and collecting them in a cart each day, but now students purchase or rent personal devices. Meirav says she likes using the iPad in her English class because she can download texts via iBook instead of purchasing the physical books, but that she’s not a fan of the iPad for math class. “It’s been a little rocky,” she said, “sometimes the apps don’t work, it’s hard to flip through, you don’t have a personal feel for an online math book.” Joel also thinks that the iPad is helpful in humanities classes. “My AP comparative government class is totally iPad-based and it’s a major advantage,” he says, because his documents are all in one place online, “so it’s more organized.” Joel's math classes are still paper-based.