When the school year started, Shaler Area implemented a 1:1 initiative in the high school coined Project ACE that allows each student to have their own personal device. The administration pitched the idea that the iPads would provide students with an accessible tool to help them become more technologically advanced.
According to the Shaler Area Middle School iPad handbook, where iPads were first distributed, “The integration of iPads as an instructional tool will provide teachers and students access to information, creativity, collaboration, and functionality with one device.”
At the beginning of his term as the new superintendent, Mr. Sean Aiken said that the iPads would help students compete in a global market place.
“The more experience and exposure our students can have now to technology that’s available, puts our students in a more competitive place,” Aiken said. Moving forward our students and teachers need to grow with the use of the iPads and technology.”
Now that the initial introduction of the iPads has become a thing of the past, both students and teachers have become more accustomed to them, several teachers have found both positives and negatives to the devices.
English department chair Mr. Chris Gaul said that when used properly, the iPad can be important and useful for the student.
“The biggest thing about the iPad is that it’s a tool and we need to understand that it’s a tool,” Gaul said. “With any tool, there are certain applications or instances where it’s okay, but it’s not a one size fits all, magic carpet ride through learning.”
However, if used incorrectly, the device can quickly become a distraction for the student which makes it harder to focus.
“Like any other tool, students have their own system, students should be able to use the tool as they see fit,” said history department chair Mr. Matt Hiserodt. “But with that freedom comes a lot of abuse too. The amount of non-school related work I see students doing on these things is pretty ridiculous.”
At first, teacher opinions were more optimistic about iPads because the theory and rationale make sense, however, there are many underlying issues which make the iPads difficult for teachers to accept.
“In an ideal world, where [both faculty and students] were knowledgeable about its use and where it was used for academic purposes, that would work, but we don’t live in an ideal world,” said science department chair Mr. Dennis Dudley.
The argument that the iPad benefits certain content areas more than others has also been discussed. In Science classes, it may benefit students more to be able to view a simulation via an application whereas in an English class the benefits may be limited.
“As the ELA department chair, I’m still really going to push for using physical copies,” Gaul said. “When you have a book, you can’t flip the page and see what’s going on your tap baseball game or who’s gone ahead and Instagrammed you. People who sell apps want you to use apps so they make them as engaging as they can.”
Unlike Shaler Area, Fox Chapel has decided to forgo the 1:1 initiative trend at the high school level. Intermediate/program principal Dr. Daniel Lentz said that there was no significant evidence that students learn better when they have a personal device.
“We agreed that it would be nice for our students to have their own device available to them and would definitely prepare students for the real world,” Lentz said. “Without evidence that it was going to raise student achievement, we decided against it.”
However, coming previously from schools that have 1:1 initiatives in place, Aiken feels the initial shock will eventually wear off and students will begin to use the iPads properly in the future
“Initially the iPads may be a distraction because there is a novelty of having a device with you at all times, to have it during the school day and being able to use it is really a process of students getting comfortable with that,” Aiken said. “At first it’s a distraction, but you have to work through it to become a functional tool where teachers use is more often and students use it more appropriately.”