2010-09-30 / Youth

iPads popular school tool

BY PHIL REYNOLDS

Port Aransas High School student Jessi Craft, right, shows off a project just completed on one of the school’s new iPad tablets. Other students working on iPads in the background are, clockwise from top, Elijah Bennett, Samantha Richardson, Samantha Rodriguez, Matthew Fries and Jack Goodgion. STAFF PHOTO BY PHIL REYNOLDS Port Aransas High School student Jessi Craft, right, shows off a project just completed on one of the school’s new iPad tablets. Other students working on iPads in the background are, clockwise from top, Elijah Bennett, Samantha Richardson, Samantha Rodriguez, Matthew Fries and Jack Goodgion. STAFF PHOTO BY PHIL REYNOLDS In the resource center at Port Aransas High School, six students sat around a table recently, intent on the screens in front of them.

Occasionally, one of them would pass his screen to another, or one would get up and look over another’s shoulder.

On the screens, words danced and music played, changing as the students shifted emphasis or changed their minds.

This ain’t your grandfather’s book report, folks.

They were working on an English III assignment. Their tools: A new electronic device from Apple Computers, called an iPad – the latest craze among many teens and computer whizzes, and the mostsought after item in the school library.

Thanks to a $3,594 grant this year from the Port Aransas Education Foundation, the library has six iPads to check out to students or teachers, and librarian Pam Voyles says that’s not nearly enough.

The youngsters in the library on this day are linked by wireless network with the school’s Web site and are working on an assignment dealing with the classic of literature, Mark Twain’s “The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn.”

On one iPad, a quotation from the book marches across the screen. Below it, an interpretation of the implications of that quotation appears.

Students and teachers alike are learning what the tablet-like devices can do, from downloading available books for reading to helping students check their grades via the Internet.

The students don’t have unrestricted access, of course. Voyles is the one with the password to the iPads and to three Kindles, similar devices that can be used only for reading. Programs and books can’t be loaded without Voyles’ knowledge and cooperation.

Students may check the iPads out for use in the library during their study periods. There, they have access to the school’s Web site and to a statewide educational site known as EBSCO, which includes the Encyclopedia Britannica and other resources. They can also get to the larger Internet – with limitations.

Teachers can check them out overnight, but must have them back for student use the next day.

“So far, there have been no problems,” Voyles reported. The iPads, conforming to an Apple corporate decision, will not run a program known as Adobe Flash, used for accessing some Web applications. That stopped some students from using maps in a geography class, she said.

While agreeing that the four-week-old iPads still hold mysteries unplumbed, Voyles said she expected to find that either students or teachers would expand her knowledge of them.

“They’re being used every day,” she said. “We’re just delighted that it was such a useful technology.”

While they’re also delighted, students aren’t uncritical. Asked what they’d like to see added to the iPads, the Huck Finn group came up with a quick list:

• “An optical drive,” said Jack Goodgion. (An optical drive plays CDs or DVDs.)

• “A USB port,” Matthew Fries volunteered. (USB, or Universial Serial Bus, is a common way to connect flash drives, mice, keyboards and other peripherals.)

• “A way to zoom in and out easier,” was Jessi Craft’s idea.

“As we find more and more ways to use them, there’ll be more (ideas),” Voyles suggested.

Right now, she’s the school expert on the iPad, but she doesn’t expect that eminence to continue forever.

Referring to the English students hunched over their iPads, she noted: “They’re digital natives.”

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