LAUREL HILL — With iPad tablet computers integrated into their curriculum, Laurel Hill School’s high school students are a step ahead of their peers in most of the rest of the county. Okaloosa School District technology administrator Eric Mitchell selected the school at the north end of the county for a pilot digital learning program through which every high school student in the school received a district-owned iPad.
With the fall semester ending, teachers and kids say the tablets have become integral parts of their teaching and learning experience.
“We just love them,” history teacher Ashley Miller said. “They’re helpful in our presentations. Students don’t have to compete for computer lab time, and they can use Keynote on their iPad to do presentations.”
“Have you ever … observed only a few computers in a computer lab that students are forced to fight over? Not anymore,” senior Chelsea Smith wrote in an essay for English teacher YonNeisha Williams. “Students get to have their own personal computers at their desks.”
“In my class, specifically, I do a lot of projects on the iPads,” Miller said. “I do Historical Scene Investigation. It’s similar to CSI, but in our class they might look up, for example, who fired the first shot in the Boston Massacre. They have to go on the iPad to do the research using five or six documents.
“Other teachers are doing similar things. I know the science classes are doing all the paperwork that goes with their experiments right there on their iPad.”
Students say the iPad helps them take better notes and produce their own study aids.
“With my teachers’ permission, of course, I can record the entire class period and watch it whenever I need to,” senior Garrett Alford wrote. “The iPad also displays and records the teacher better than I can take notes, which makes it a lot easier for me to understand.”
By taking quizzes on their iPads, students provide teachers with real-time feedback so they can review problem areas that might require extra instruction, Miller said.
“I can project my quiz up on the screen,” she said. “It can show how they’re doing in real time so I can say, ‘Oh, I had better review that.’”
“With my iPad, I know right when I submit an assignment what I made on that certain assignment,” Garrett said. “The teachers don’t have to work as hard and the students are even more satisfied.”
The iPads’ ability to store multiple textbooks has also lightened the daily load in a student’s backpack. As an added benefit, Laurel Hill School Principal Susan Lowery-Sexton noted, the books update as necessary, negating the need to buy new books.
“The state has been telling us we’re going to have to be testing more in computers and they want us to move toward digital books because they’re cheaper,” she said. “Plus, we can update texts easier electronically.”
“English teachers can download books … and students can access iBooks to read their books,” senior Kasey Trunk said. “This allows students to highlight and write notes in the books, but because it is not a physical book, it does not vandalize the material. This makes it easier for students to remember the things they highlight and note.”
“The iPad stores textbooks. That way, a teacher will never have to listen to a student’s excuses as to why he did not bring his textbook to class,” senior Robert Hand said. “The assignment will always be right on the iPad. Informational handouts will also no longer be a problem; all a teacher would have to do is send a digital form of the handout to the class and they will always have the assignment.”
Miller said the kids treat the tablets with more TLC than they have their textbooks.
“The kids have been real respectful of their iPads,” she said. “I think they’d forget their purse before they’d leave their iPad laying around. I hear them ask each other, ‘I’m going to the bathroom. Would you watch my iPad?’ You see textbooks laying around sometimes but never an iPad.”
Contact News Bulletin Staff Writer Brian Hughes at 850-682-6524 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @cnbBrian.