Mobile devices catching on in classrooms
Catholic division expands use of handheld technology in schools
By: Peter Boer
| Posted: Tuesday, Oct 02, 2012 07:15 pm
There are few schools where students can pull out their iPhones, iPod Touches or iPads in class without potentially losing them for the rest of the day. Richard S. Fowler Junior High is one of those few schools.
In fact, under the school’s Power Up 2 Learn program, the use of mobile devices is heavily encouraged and almost mandatory, so much so the school keeps a bank of iPod Touches on hand in case a new student doesn’t yet have one or forgets it at home.
“The whole division is moving in this direction,” said principal Susan Coates. “This is something all schools – and certainly it would be my belief – that all schools need to move in this direction.”
The program at Fowler has been so successful that it has been expanded outside St. Albert, to the Catholic district’s school in Legal and also Georges H. Primeau School in Morinville, according to assistant superintendent David Quick.
“We’d have to call Power Up 2 Learn a success story for the ages of the students,” Quick said. “Now we’ll move into the elementary schools as well to have more technology in the hands of students so it’s going to grow downward and upward.”
Moving the program into high schools is proving more difficult due to the stringent rules around Grade 12 diploma exams, Quick said, but students are using some of what they learned at Fowler. The process is just evolving slower.
“We’ve just got to make sure we’re in alignment with the expectations for 30-level courses.”
And it’s not like the students are spending their time on their mobile devices throwing birds at pigs – they are using them to learn, said Quick.
“When they have a question, they don’t always have to go to the teacher,” Quick said. “Students can also use devices to send work back and forth to their teacher. They are able to use the teacher’s website as a means of getting work and guiding questions, but also as a means of sharing with others in the class when it’s appropriate to do so.”
The teachers have also received an upgrade and now carry iPads. With the flip of a switch, any teacher can move their work from their computer to their iPad so they can wirelessly interact with students. Teachers also attend regular in-service and professional development sessions to learn more about what they can do.
“I’m impressed with the opportunities the students have to integrate technology into learning,” said Coates.
The mobile devices are used in several different ways. Coates cited examples such as a teacher asking the class a question and students using their mobile devices to find the answer on the Internet.
Other teachers incorporate specific apps, one recent introduction being Socrative, billed as a student response system. The app allows teachers to set up true/false, multiple choice and even short-answer questions that students can use their mobile devices to answer.
Quick said none of the schools using the Power Up 2 Learn program have yet caught anyone cheating. He said the teachers are always watching students and that the students themselves enjoy the program too much.
“They really enjoy this opportunity to have the technology in their hands and they’ve been very responsible in how they use it,” Quick said. “They don’t want to lose the privilege.
“We haven’t had issues around children using it to text friends or phone people.”
The school is also looking at how it can use more wireless technology in the class. Coates said one teacher is experimenting with Apple TV – a small box that allows music and video streaming as well as some Internet access – to see if it can be used in the classroom.
“It’s about the kinds of videos we can access because the iPads don’t have flash,” said Coates. “So that gives us a wider range of material we can access. It makes the classroom more engaging.”