This December, the world language department is getting a “Learning Lab” from Apple, including a set of 15 new iPad 2’s, to use in class after a grant was approved by the East Fund.
The Learning Lab itself includes 10 of the black, 16 GB, Wi-Fi enabled iPad 2 devices, with five additional iPads bought separately to go in the cart as well. The Learning Lab is similar to a laptop cart, providing chargers and power sources for the iPads to dock and charge with after use. The cart also features a MacBook for syncing the iPads while they are docked.
Jeff Finnie, the Spanish teacher who wrote the grant request, is currently in the process of ordering the iPads. Once the products arrive at East, he plans on leading training for the teachers and the classes so they can learn the potentials of what the iPads could be used for.
In his Spanish classes, Finnie plans on using the iPads for various technology-aided activities, some of those being video recording, flash cards, and Internet article reading. Though he has a good idea of what can be done with the iPads, Finnie believes using them in class is also going to be a learning experience.
“It’s a process of discovery,” Finnie said. “I know that there are things that are advertised that we can do, but I want to see how that [works] and then get feedback from teachers and students.”
The $12,000 to buy the iPads came from a grant from the East Fund, which has been described as a “booster fund for education.” The East Fund raises money through fundraisers, such as Feast for East, and donations. The money that is raised then goes towards grants which are given for specific requests at East. Members of the East community can submit a grant application, which will then be reviewed by the Grant Committee for possible approval.
“Our criteria is it has to be something that there’s no funding for somewhere else,” Joan Beahm, president of the East Fund said. “Not something that the district provides or that can be paid for out of another fund of money.”
During the grant review process, Beahm says that they asses the grant based on a rubric with certain criteria.
“It has to affect the greatest number of students,” Beahm said. “It has to be something that is self-sustaining, we don’t have to give them money every year, and it has to be something where it can be shared among other groups at East or can benefit the greatest number of students.”
Beahm said that the East Fund decided to approve the grant for the iPads because the language department would be able to make great use of them.
“They have a greater opportunity to use them,” Beahm said. “There’s so much online these days, there’s so much [technology] that they can use, it’s just kind of keeping it up to date.”
Junior Emily Sneed, who is currently a student in Finnie’s AP Spanish 5 class, expects the iPads to help enrich the classroom experience.
“I think it could kind of open up some opportunities as far as just different activities we can do,” Sneed said. “They have recording devices on there, so it could actually be beneficial to hear ourselves talk. We could hear what we said and then see what we could do different.”
Depending on what limits are put on the iPads, Sneed also believes that they could potentially be distracting. However, Finnie doesn’t think that the iPads will cause any issues for his class. He’s going to treat them like having laptops in class: they’re going to be used for work purposes only.
“That’s something I’ll have to monitor–sometimes technology can be distracting,” Finnie said. “I’m not going to just say ‘Oh, here’s some iPads, play with them for 15 minutes’, I’ll have very specific directions, activities that they’ll be doing.”
Finnie is looking forward to trying out something that hasn’t ever been done before at East: iPads in the classroom. He says that it’s not so much necessarily about the technology that is used, it is all about how you use it.
“It’s just another tool that I can use in the classroom for things that we’re already doing,” Finnie said. “I think it’ll make it more interactive of course with technology; but I don’t think technology, in and of itself is necessarily magical, I think it’s what you do with it.”