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School looks to expand iPads in classroom

Many Champaign County students embrace technology.

Imagine going to class without notebooks, pencils or heavy textbooks in your backpack.

The seniors at West Liberty-Salem High School are using iPads during school this year instead of those traditional classroom materials.

“It has completely replaced all my paperwork. Everything I do, all my note-taking, is on my iPad. I don’t have any notes written down. I don’t have to worry about losing any of my papers,” West Liberty-Salem High School senior Shelby Morrison said.

Most students are excited and enjoy the new technology, however, some believe the iPads are not being used to their full potential.

In Greg Thomas’ senior government classes, the iPad is used everyday.

Students read their textbook, do instant-feedback surveys at the start of class and look up terms and current events all on their tablets.

“This makes learning more productive,” Thomas said. “If they have questions, they can email me at any time, and I can get right back to them. The communication is one of the big aspects we really like.”

His students can highlight text he references during lecture, which then automatically appears on a notes page for each chapter, and then is made into flash cards all done by the textbook’s app.

“It’s a new way of studying. You can use study cards, just read or just research for fun,” senior April Kelley said.

“I think they are hearing me more than they would if they were having to write things down,” Thomas said.

Kelley said she believes this is the direction education is heading and this experience will better prepare her for higher education.

“Honestly, its preparing us for college, because the work college students use is on the iPad,” Kelley said.

She said students can listen to textbooks on the iPad instead of reading them, and it makes keeping up with schoolwork from home, much easier.

One eco-friendly benefit: everything in Thomas’ government class is paperless, except the tests he said.

He admits he is learning new things on the iPad all the time and trying to incorporate them into his classes.

“The potential is unlimited. You have look at it’s as not a new toy. It’s a tool for learning,” Thomas said.

Students who oppose the iPad believe too many students are using the iPad as a toy.

“You’ll look around and see students on all kinds of different apps,” senior Logan Boggs said.

Boggs said he sees students on Twitter, Instagram and Candy Crush often during lectures.

Another senior, Sarah Landis, said she loves learning, but finds the technology a distraction.

“I’ve been an honor student, but it’s a lot harder for me to focus on my studies now with all of this in front of me, because if I’m told to work on an assignment in class, I’d much rather play Candy Crush,” Landis said.

The school’s IT director, Rich Johnson, said the pros far outweigh the cons of the technology, and he is working on trying to block certain apps at school.

In the senior class 56 students bought their own iPad, and 5 students are leasing iPads through the school for the year at $125.

Students also had a chance to borrow an iPad from the library each day, but none chose that option.

It costs the district less than $10,000 for the program.

The program is working so well that the district plans to ask the board of education tonight at its meeting to expand the program to juniors for next semester.

In a survey of the junior class, 52 said they would buy their own iPad. Tablets can be bought from the school at a discounted price of $385, according to Principal Greg Johnson.

Twenty- one said they would lease them for $75 for the semester, and six said they would check one out from the library each day.

Expanding the program to the junior class would cost the district around $10,000 more, but it would make up some of that money through leases or students buying the iPads at the end the year, according to Johnson.

To create more Wi-Fi capacity for the new devices Mike and Traci Ritter, owners of the West Liberty Subway, have donated $2,000 to add Internet access points.

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