Tablets Lead Charge in Classroom Innovation

by Luke Jones  on Monday, Jul. 16, 2012 12:00 am  

Apple Inc.'s iPads, above, and Apple Learning Labs are showing up in Arkansas' K-12 classrooms. (Photo by Apple)

Principal Karli Saracini brought iPad carts into Harrisburg Middle School at the beginning of the 2011-12 school year. Saracini is a leader at the Arkansas chapter of the Technology Information Center for Administrative Leadership, which meets in Little Rock each year. There, she learns about and presents on emerging technology in the state. She wanted to let the students use new technology in an environment where it's frequently prohibited.

"When they walk through the door, they have to turn off," she said. "We've got to start putting something back."

The school has carts for the iPads as well as iPods. The iPods can be used as translators, Saracini said, which is especially useful for the school's handful of Spanish-speaking students. The school has no teachers who speak Spanish, Saracini said.

Saracini's goal is to make sure the newest technology is available to her students. She said the school has three new carts and recently purchased 90 MacBook Airs. She noted one cart with 30 iPads costs about $20,000. According to Apple, the cart alone costs about $2,600.

Both Saracini and McClure said their schools were able to afford the carts using various grants.

Higher Education

The college field has been taking to tablet use in varying ways.

Ed Franklin, executive director of the Arkansas Association of Two-Year Colleges, said community colleges are working on figuring out what to do once the $128 million Arkansas Research & Education Optical Network is completed in August 2013. When it's complete, all the state's community colleges will have access to dramatically faster Internet speeds.

Franklin said some of the schools' preparations involve introducing smartphones and tablets into the classroom. "It's the direction we're going, especially with younger folks," Franklin said.

The community college area is a bit different from four-year schools, Franklin said, since the students' average age is 28, meaning technology "immigrants" are just as common as technology "natives."

"It's a different challenge in terms of using some of those same tools," Franklin said.

The history department at Arkansas State University in Jonesboro is using iPads extensively in its secondary social studies teaching program.



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