Imagine a classroom without textbooks, paper, or pens. Can you fathom a learning environment where students have videos at their fingertips, can create digital flashcards, and submit homework in the form of e-documents? Such a thing must only be possible in large urban schools, costly private academies, or in Japan where education is one of the highest government priorities. Not so...in order to find this type of unique learning environment one must only travel to Cuba-Rushford Middle/High School.
These extraordinary things are happening in the 8th grade English classroom of Mrs. Michelle McGraw. In August of this year CRCS began a 3-year initiative designed to put portable-take home wireless devices, such as iPads, in the hands of all middle and high school students, which included Mrs. McGraw’s 8th grade students. “I knew that the best way for me to embrace such an exceptional learning opportunity was to jump in feet first.” said McGraw. She utilized many different applications and technologies in order to make an adjustment from a class that handed out over 700 pieces of paper a week to a class that has only handed out 200 pieces of paper in 8 weeks. This equates to an estimated savings for the school district of close to $1500 in the first quarter of the school year.
Textbooks are a hefty resource in both size and cost. By utilizing the on-line literature textbook supplied free (with our textbook purchase) by Holt, Rhinehart, and Winston and creating a no-cost iBook, Mrs. McGraw has helped to make an 8th grade English student’s backpack a couple of pounds lighter. Audio versions of most of our readings are also available as well. The paperless classroom also means less school supplies for parents to buy. McGraw’s students complete their homework assignments on their iPad as well as record, organize, and store all of their notes. As long as a student brings their iPad back and forth between school and home they will never be able to say that they “lost or forgot” their homework or are unable to study because they left their notebook in school.
Students in Mrs. McGraw’s English class have also had the opportunity create a variety of multimedia projects to demonstrate the knowledge that they gained at the Civil War Re-Enactment in Angelica and while researching the father of the detective story, Edgar Allan Poe. The projects highlighted their technology skills as well by incorporating video, audio, photography, and graphic design. Before iPads were a regular part of our class students would have needed to a computer at home with presentation software, a video camera, and a microphone, now all of this can be completed by using the iPad.
In a recent technology survey XX% of 8th graders said that the iPads have increased their participation and interest level in school. Additionally, 82% of 8th grade students said that iPad have increased their rate of learning. Most students feel that the iPad has improved their performance in the classroom and if given the chance to transfer to a class that does not use iPads only 10% of students would.
The transition to a paperless classroom has not been without its challenges. It has taken time for both student and teacher to adjust to the changes but benefits have been huge. Students feel that they have become more responsible and that they are able to complete their work in a more efficient manner.