This August, teachers at the Webb School in Knoxville, Tennessee will give students a slightly unusual request: Please take out your iPads.
The Webb School is joining the wave of educational institutions enamored by the possibilities of Apple's latest device, which it plans on introducing to students this fall.
Webb School technology director Jim Manikas believes the iPad that most clearly fits the needs of the school environment. He cites the iPad's ease of use and price point as two major reasons for the Webb School's choice. It just fits a lot of the bills, he said. The advantages far outweigh the disadvantages.
With the program, the Webb school will join institutions such as St. Andrews School in Savannah, Ga., which started distributing iPads last year. Thus far 480 iPads were given to students in grades 1-12.
The Webb School aims to do something similar. It covers students in grades 4-12, in a 1-to-1 program: one iPad for every student.
According to Manikas reactions from parents and teachers has been overwhelmingly positive. Teachers are enthused by the prospect of a more engaged classroom, and parents, though not without questions, have been receptive to the plan. We have not heard any major issues from parents at all, which actually surprised us, he said.
Common critisicms of classroom technologies cite the clear risks of handing expensive electronics to children. Not only can they break, but they run the risk of being stolen.
But what Manikas noticed in looking at other schools, however, was that those sorts of things didn't tend to happen that often. Most of the time, even with laptop programs, theft doesn't seem to be a big deal, Manikas said. Damage is minor.
Another counter to the issue of theft, Manikas said, was that if every student has their own iPad, then there is little rationale for any students to steal.
Criticism, however, is expected on an entirely different front. Apple is slated to release the iPad 2 sometime this year, and nobody wants the school to be stuck with an expensive upgrade project. Still, Manikas certain that the current iPads will suit The Webb School even if a new iteration appears before the next school year. I think that the current version will do everything that we want to do in a classroom situation, he said.The new version, from what I've heard, will not make a significant difference in the classroom setting.
Moreover, sticking to the current model will allow the school to get bigger discounts from Apple, deals that can then be passed on to student's and their families.
We want to try to prepare our students the best we can for the digital world they will inherit. We want technology to be completely second nature to them. If they are comfortable with this, they can pick up anything, Manikas said.