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iPads slowly popping up in classrooms across NH

New Hampshire Sunday News

September 17. 2011 7:00PM
The Derryfield School staff and faculty work together with iPads recently during a teacher workshop. From left are Betty Jipson, Trevor Munhall, Lindley Shutz and Regina Assetta. (THOMAS ROY/UNION LEADER)

Students in a history class at New Hampton School last week didn't rely on pages of a book to learn about events leading up to World War I.

School-issued iPads were their link to the past.

Students re-created cafe scenes representing different European countries, incorporating their country's viewpoint of the world. The sophomores shot and edited video with their iPads and made short movies to show their classmates, said Hans Mundahl, the school's director of technology integration.

'It's just a more efficient way of retaining that content because you're asked to do something with it,' Mundahl said. And parents could see how and what their children learned by viewing the videos via the school's website.

More schools are introducing technology into their classrooms to the YouTube generation while some debate whether they can afford to invest taxpayer funds or grant money to buy the tablets.

New Hampshire's school districts are not all created equally, meaning 'some families and some school districts are more advantaged,' said Mark Joyce, executive director of the New Hampshire School Administrators Association. 'It's a local choice option, and that issue is always the case.'

Districts, he said, shouldn't expect state education money to help pay for the technology.

'I'd be surprised with that, given the reality of the state budget and all,' he said. Local districts don't need state approval to incorporate the devices in their schools, he said.

In Hooksett, the school district spent about $56,000 from a budget surplus to provide 30 iPads each to the town's three schools. The iPads will be shared among students.

Superintendent Charles Littlefield says schools are in a 'transition period' of bringing the digital age to the classroom.

'We're infusing more technology into the schools every year, but we're not making real substantial purchases,' he said. 'So what does that mean? For a while, we're going to be running parallel systems. It's going to be nice when we get to the point that textbook publishers make their textbooks available electronically. Right now, some do and some don't, so you can't make that shift over to electronic textbooks.'

Littlefield predicts 'a long-term conversion' that won't be complete in the next five years in Hooksett.

Others are looking at a quicker conversion.

At The Derryfield School in Manchester, faculty attending a professional development day Friday spent the bulk of their time learning and sharing ideas about iPads. The private school has given faculty iPads for this school year and plans to make a decision this winter on whether to require students to buy them next year.

'It changes the classroom mechanics,' said Joseph Stubblefield, director of technology. It means more group work and less lecturing, he said.

Stubblefield expects the devices would cost parents around $500, but families could save $100 or $200 a year by buying fewer paper textbooks.

On Friday, math teacher Ed Lemire was explaining to fellow teachers how he already is harnessing the Internet to teach classes and monitor student course work at home since students do their work on a website, which they register on.

'Some kids have gone beyond midnight (doing school work) because they're so excited,' Lemire said.

Students watch short videos of instruction at home and do their homework in class. The software allows Lemire to see what problems students get wrong and highlights in red the areas where students may need more instruction.

'It's flipping the classroom,' Lemire said.

'I'm actually more active as a teacher than before,' Lemire said. 'I'm working with them in groups. I'm not just lecturing.'

He hopes to expand using technology if the school requires iPads next year.

At New Hampton School, all of last year's freshmen, nearly 30, were given iPads. This year, about 50 freshmen, 20 new students who are sophomores and 40 faculty members received them. The cost is built into the student tuition, according to Head of School Andrew Menke.

He said English students, for instance, can download novels electronically.

'You don't have to carry around as many books,' said Menke, whose son, Auden, received a tablet as a freshman there this year. 'When you read on an iPad, you can annotate and take notes electronically; that is far easier and more intuitive for students. They're so used to and comfortable with technology at the outset.'

Last week, Derry learned that two middle school classes would each receive 20 devices thanks to grants.

And Friday, the Obama administration introduced a project to help bring more technology into classrooms.

'Digital Promise is an independent nonprofit that will help spur breakthrough learning technologies that transform teaching and learning in and out of the classroom, while creating a business environment that rewards innovation and entrepreneurship,' according to a blog item on the official White House website.

Mary Carter, faculty and staff professional development director, said Derryfield officials are looking at the iPad as one tool among money.

'How can it inspire children to learn? How can it ... enhance communication and organization?' Carter said. 'How can it help economize?'

Mundahl said a $3 iPad app helped science students at New Hampton last year learn about forces, acceleration and vectors. They dropped a parachute and shot video.

The app 'helps the students collect data about their falling parachute,' he said. 'Students have to know how to interpret that data with the teacher, of course.'

But in the end, Mundahl said: 'Kids get to do stuff, real stuff.'

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