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Friday, March 23, 2012

Schools Abandon Textbooks To Go All iPad

Burlington High School Principal Patrick Larkin shows off his iPad at Here & Now studios at WBUR in Boston. (Jesse Costa/Here & Now)

Apple reports schools in more than 600 districts have bought iPads for all of their students. And it’s not happening just in wealthy suburbs. Schools in urban districts like New York City and Chicago are also handing out iPads.

In the Boston area, Burlington High School launched a one-to-one iPad program in the fall, providing a tablet for each student.

It cost the school about $500,000 for the devices, and the principal, Patrick Larkin, said the school paid for them within its existing budget.

How To Pay For iPads

The school saved money by getting rid of its computer labs, abandoning plans to build a new language lab and deciding it would no longer buy new textbooks.

Larkin said they didn’t throw away the old books, but no longer need to buy new ones, since students and teachers can find everything they need online.

Larkin said the school isn’t even buying electronic versions of textbooks, since they end up costing the schools more than traditional ones in the long run.

Teacher Skepticism

Some teachers were initially skeptical of the change.

Burlington High history chair, Todd Whitten, said he was afraid the kids would spend all their time playing video games and texting friends.

But he said if teachers stay attentive, they can keep their students focused. He said if kids start getting too distracted by the iPads, he just makes sure they turn them off.

“The great thing about the iPad is you just turn it over and it’s done.” Whitten told Here & Now‘s Robin Young.

The project is just in its first year, but Larkin said so far, kids seem to be doing as well or better with the iPads.

But Burlington might not be an all iPad school forever.

Larkin said you never know what the next technology will be, and they are prepared to switch to the next best thing in the years to come.


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  • Anonymous

    I don’t have kids in school and don’t really have any “dog in that fight” [aside from concern for my country, generally] but I think this is a long over-due experiment. 

     Textbooks are neither infallible nor objective, and quite often are not inducive to learning.  The sense of exploration common to most children are stifled by stale, didactic teaching styles and it’s about time we opened this door and considered the possibilities.

    • http://twitter.com/schinker John Schinker

      Here’s the thing: when most of us went to school, we went to get knowledge. School was where the knowledge was kept. The teacher and the textbook were the experts. They weren’t perfect experts, but they were the best experts we had.

      That has changed. Our students already have the knowledge. It’s on their gadgets, in their phones, accessible all the time from everywhere. So why are they still coming to school? They’re coming because they need more than that to be successful. They need to be able to take that information from multiple conflicting sources and make sense of it. They need to navigate the overwhelming deluge of data and pick out the pieces that are most relevant. They need to combine their knowledge in new, innovative ways to solve the very real problems their generation will face. They need to be able to work collaboratively and communicate effectively with people of many different social, economic, and cultural backgrounds. That’s why they’re going to school.

      So let’s stop focusing so much on textbooks and instead direct our attention to learning. It sounds like Mr. Larkin is doing that in his school. 

  • Rick Ross

    I have nothing to add to the story, but Mr. Larkin was my principal at Peabody High. I graduated in 2007 – the same year he moved on. Everyone loved him. I nearly jumped out of my chair when I heard him on Here & Now.

    • http://twitter.com/bhsprincipal Patrick Larkin

      Hey Rick! Great to hear from you. Thanks for the kind words! I hope all is well!

  • Anonymous

    My son is a junior at Burlington High School. He and his peers have found the iPad to be a great tool. I have been a proponent of using current technology in schools all my adult life (full disclosure, I was a computer sales professional until I started my own company), and I think that we should give our kids the tools that are available to help them be more competitive in the global marketplace.

    • SuzieJ

      I’m sure the kids love this!  LOL  It keeps them from getting their phones from being taken away for texting in class.  Kids would love soda and candy bars for lunch also. 

      • Anonymous

         Your point being…?

  • John M

    This makes great sense, so long as you aren’t buying e-textbooks or teaching your students how to program.

    But of course schools with these devices are going to end up buying slick textbooks. The iPad is a media sales platform before it’s anything else.

    And it’s baffling to me that people think we’re going to make kids “competitive” in what keeps being referred to as the knowledge economy, when you’re handing them closed-platform units that work so seamlessly precisely because they make the inner workings of the tech completely invisible & inaccessible.

    Get rid of your school’s computer labs and buy all your kids iPads? Ok, so long as you don’t want to graduate a single student who will *program* or *design* the next iPad, but only *buy* it. [written on my ipad...]

    • Holly

      What’s wrong with teaching students to program? Programming languages are as beneficial to the brain as foreign languages or the languages of math.

      • http://twitter.com/bhsprincipal Patrick Larkin

        Agreed, we still teach programming and we also have some labs where our students due some tremendous work in Digital Arts/

    • Anonymous

       Um, they DO offer programming courses at BHS. They didn’t eliminate the curriculum, just the outdated hardware that they had in place.

  • Highamc704

    This question is not about textbooks versus ipads.  You need to be able to learn to find information in all areas.  The questions is how much is this education jumping on a bandwagon in hopes of solving all problems with one product?

    • http://twitter.com/bhsprincipal Patrick Larkin

      You nailed it. There is no device that will do this. You can gain increased access to resources with a web-enabled device, but without great teachers orchestrating the lessons and promoting inquiry-driven learning you have not gained anything.

  • Karen Riggs

    [Disclaimer: I missed a bit of the broadcast in the middle; apologies if my comment is redundant.]

    I am a college professor who is speeding into the world of teaching about Content Curation. Needless to say, I am not relying on textbooks. :)

    My comment: Thank you! This interview was a great addition to the national conversation about preK-12 digital education. I hope it goes far.

    Two questions:

    Question 1. What might be the fallout from the state and national standardized test special interests and mobs? 

    I do not mean simply the stakes of giving up paper textbooks but also the ‘radical’–dare we say ‘creative’–ways in which the Burlington system proposes that we prepare a workforce and citizenry.  I can imagine that here in Ohio, decision-makers will quickly nip such a ideas in the bud, because we have to “teach to the test.” God forbid we should speculate about Texas. How unfortunate for teachers and students, for teachers in higher ed, and for employers who are desperate to mount a Web 2.0-literate workforce. I do not mean literate in the sense that they are competent users of technology in the traditional sense. I do mean literate in the sense that Burlington’s preK-12 system is striving for. If students come to college knowing how to gather and consume information literately, we will not waste their time here teaching them remedial skills. Instead, we could more ably teach them how to participate in the creation and application of knowledge!

    Twenty years ago, we got around to suggesting that kids become literate in 20th century media. Hearing about Internet safety and learning how to do a search is a great step but does not, as Burlington knows, constitute literacy. Knowing how to read and write has always been the capital that is necessary to participate in our society; now, that is not enough. 

    Question 2. Apple, McGraw-Hill, and others have a big stake in the Burlingtonian philosophy. (Apple might have created a monster.) What might be some anticipated responses from them?  As for lobbying, Apple brings the financial power of, well, Apple, and McGraw-Hill has enjoyed a profitable relationship with Washington, especially with the introduction of NCLB (No Child Gets Ahead) and its lengthy, close ties to the Bush family. (McG-H dominates the Texas textbook market.) As preK-12′s foray into electronic textbooks deepens, Apple and McGraw-Hill await it. 

    I love Apple and consider it part of my cultural DNA, but its power in such matters is worrisome. Of course, other companies have tablets and will introduce better ones but they’ll never match Apple.

    Here and now, please continue the conversation!

    Thank you,

    Karen Riggs, Professor
    School of Media Arts and Studies
    Ohio University

    • http://twitter.com/bhsprincipal Patrick Larkin

      Great points Karen! I share your concerns and feel that there is a great deal more to talk about. For us in Burlington it is not about the iPad but about having a web-enabled device in the hands of every student. I look forward to a day when each learner can bring their own device into the school. With this in mind, we have to make sure that we have both eyes open and do not go for any app or resource that will hurt us in our efforts to be device and platform agnostic in the future.

    • http://twitter.com/rtw4 Todd Whitten

       Hi Karen-
      I too have qualms about Apple’s deepening role in education, but I also think that we’ve been at the mercy of the corporate beast for years now, so Apple joining in isn’t anything that is a new problem facing education. Textbook corporations have had classrooms at their mercy for content for many years now, so from where I sit, this is a huge opportunity to democratize information and free me and my students from the tyranny of the textbook.

      Out of the frying pan and into the fire though, right? Maybe, but that’s where I think creative teachers can make the difference. And yes, literacy in the 21st century is a great many things; in many ways being a teacher is more difficult than ever! But so is being a teenager and being a student and being a parent, so I guess we’re all in this together…

  • Rlathan

    If you want a 14 year old boy to learn about the Roman Empire, instead of text book, you tell him to ‘google’ Rome and study whatever he wants??  Find it hard to believe that is effective or useful.  I know 14 year old children.

    • Dave

      Well said!

    • Lennie

      First of all you give him a little more direction than that.  A few key words are needed for any decent Google search.  And then you see what he comes up with and guide him along to find the pertinent information.  Its not that hard and kids these days are better at it than you might think.  I have a 14-yr-old boy and he could do this in a heartbeat and would enjoy it more than fishing around in a 5-yr-old text that cost the school $150.  Right now he literally has a backpack with 50lb of books in it, every day. 

    • http://twitter.com/schinker John Schinker

      No. You ask better questions than that. How is the United States similar to and different from the Roman Empire? What kinds of predictions can we make about the future of America based on Rome’s past? Engage them in discussion and debate. Along the way, they’ll learn everything the textbook would have told them about Rome.

    • http://twitter.com/phsprincipal Dave Meister

      I have a fourteen year old child.  I taught World and American History.  My child can tell me things about Roman history that I did not know.  He loves to read about history….and his knowledge is mostly self taught by using the Internet.  He knows how to cross check references and to question what he finds.  They are quite capable if given the chance!  Kudos to Burlington High School for helping to pioneer this way of engaging students.  I am sure there are many things to learn about how to teach and engage students with Internet ready devices ubiquitously available, but we will only learn how to master this technology by experimenting with it.  My only problem is that because of inequities, not all students will have these experiences.  Unfortunately, in the current state of education, we will find the money to test them, buy Common Core ready texts, but will pass on spending money to build engaging programs such as this.

  • Cmole

    Not only are textbooks outdated, but textbooks have become advertising agents for introducing product recognition at an early age to consumers.  It used to be one cookie plus on cookie equals two…now it’s one oreo plus one chips ahoy…

    • Doc Howard

      HOW TRUE!  Because there are no advertisements on websites!  LOL  This is just another passing fad to waste million$ of tax dollars.  In about 2 years all of these iPads will be broken, lost, or stolen… and they will get another budget for new textbooks or the next device.  What happended to all of the schools who gave our laptops 4-5 years ago?  Same thing!

      • http://twitter.com/schinker John Schinker

        How long does a laptop last? I’m sure the schools are looking at this from a sustainability perspective. When you buy a textbook, you know how long it’s going to last, and you calculate the point at which it will need to be replaced, and the cost per year of having the book. The same is true for computers. In my school, a desktop computer lasts 6 years. A laptop lasts 4 years. An iPad? We don’t know yet. They’ve only been around for two years. Most people are expecting them to need replacing by 3 years. So that’s part of the cost. If the school determines that the benefits of having the device are worth the cost, then they do it.

        It’s also worth pointing out that the real advantage to students having devices is less about the “access to information” and more about what they can create. How can they use the device to demonstrate their learning in real and relevant ways?

        • http://twitter.com/bhsprincipal Patrick Larkin

          Great points John. You are right on with the fact that schools need to rethink how they used to look at spending on technology. Things are obsolete faster than ever and that certainly changes things from a purchasing standpoint and is another reason why I think schools and businesses will look more at a Bring Your Own Device model where the end-users choose what works best for them.

      • Karen Riggs

        Several solid longitudinal studies show a correlation between math proficiency and computer use. Some studies focused on sociological achievement gaps, and they show reduced gaps for girls and racial and ethnic minorities, especially students whose first language is not English.  

        Focusing on “wastefulness” is a matter of perspective. What are we “wasting” when we don’t carefully weigh opportunities? What are we “wasting” in other tax spending? Dismissing the possibility of using iPads based on nebulous impressions about laptop spending “4-5 years ago” seems foolhardy.

        (One area of waste that hasn’t been talked about should be: environmental and public health impact of disposing obsolete tablets.) 

  • Productionsmk

    what is the math website that they spoke about

  • Amccrary

    I am an educator, and if the ipad works well for these particular classrooms then so be it. However, I have an eye disorder that involves sensitivity to the bright lights of electronic devices like the ipad or iphone. What kind of allowance is made for students who may have a similar condition? 

    • Kbeiderman

       There are accessibility option built into iOS including a way to change the light pattern to be the opposite (negative light) called White on Black. I think this would help in your (and other’s) situation.

    • Sarahrichards1966

      What happens when these flashing lights cause a seizure?

    • Mainejetta

      My 70 yo father also suffers from a sensitivity to bright displays and has set up his iPad to invert the colors by pressing the home button three times. The accessibility features built in to all Apple products are amazing He used to use a Kindle and has not picked it up since getting an iPad.

    • http://twitter.com/rtw4 Todd Whitten

      I have a student who wears sunglasses when he uses his iPad for that very reason. The color inversion mentioned below also makes this possible for him. We also have students who are visually impaired, and the ability to enlarge the font of documents makes it so they can read along with the rest of the class.

  • Cmole

    By using interactive technology and directing children in this direction, they are learning important problem solving skills and are learning to research current information.  This is the wave of the future.

  • Nicodemus

    Can you wrap the youngster’s knuckles with an iPad?

    • John Ranta

      It’s not that flexible. But you can rap their knuckles. 

  • Nicodemus

    Can one use an Android device.  Apple is a beast.

    • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1230776 Brad Hunt

      I completely agree. The biggest problem I have with this approach (which is to say I certainly have more than one problem) is the 100% free brand-loyalty-indoctrination that this school is providing to Apple. As opposed to Android, which is based on a more open-source, choose-your-own-device philosophy, the Apple philosophy is one based on locking the end-user so that it’s difficult to transition to any other company’s devices/platforms, even if you want to. If you need an illustration of this philosophy, just try exporting the music on your iPod to another device. Education isn’t just about learning, it’s about learning how to learn. And if we’re only teaching students to learn through the offerings of the Apple brand, who exactly are best serving?

      • http://twitter.com/bhsprincipal Patrick Larkin

        Brad – I agree with you. We are steering clear of pay for apps and looking at apps mostly from web-based tools like Evernote, Dropbox, Google, etc. that are available on any device and are cross platform. Our goal is to be Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) within a short period of time. Our issue with the android devices we looked at was that there was no management tool to assist us in the management of the devices. We had multiple options on the iPad for this. 

        • http://twitter.com/schinker John Schinker

          It’s interesting that you’re planning to move FROM a 1:1 program TO a BYOD. Most schools do it the other way around. I’ve been thinking lately (http://bit.ly/GUjT1l) that you might be right.

          On the management side, it’s awful that you had to go to iOS for the management tools, of all things. Management of iOS devices has been the biggest pain point for lots of schools.

      • rhp123

        Android isn’t there yet. They aren’t viable in a school environment. Updating is difficult and product support is dependent on a host of different manafactures. Apple have a proven track record in service and product support. I would love the competition to get serious, but they just aren’t there yet!

  • John W Streeter

    This is an amazing spot.  I am a school board rep for a district in Southern NH and we are piloting this now in 2 classrooms.  We are looking at all of these issues now so it is timely to hear.

    I have a freshman who has been consistantly getting C’s and D’s on geometry tests.  We turned her onto Khan Acadamy about 4 weeks ago and her lowest grade since has been an A-

    • samantha b

      Khan  maybe is also a better instructor?   Not only is Khan Academy a great concept but also he  himself  presents concepts  well.

    • Guest

      I think Khan would likely have raised your kids grades using chalk and a 100 year old blackboard also.  This likely is more related to most teachers being dreadful and him being terrific than the the use of the iPad.  The answer is likely to eliminate the teachers unions and train teachers currently in the education programs of American universities in Khan’s image.

      • Karen Riggs

        Your argument misses the mark. Why not encourage great teachers and teachers who would be great appropriately deploy the tools of the current century to impart knowledge? 

        I am certainly swayed by the suggestion that Khan is a great instructor. Part of his instructional philosophy appears to lie in his wise embrace of technology. Sure, we are well blessed with teachers who, for a variety of causes, do not train students for university and, yes, some of them should be turned out. We also have great teachers. Headlines about teachers unions “at war” with technology are titillating but tell a fractured story. 
        It is sad that we cannot cleave arguments about the worth of teachers and their unions from a discussion about improvements to education through the thoughtful application of a concept that defines our era–technology. Confronting problems relating to teacher competence can lead to great uses of technology in the classroom–why settle for just one tool? An arbitrary choice to join the Luddites is a choice made without the exercise of much intellectual curiosity. An iPad is not a Gameboy. Blaming teachers doesn’t make sense. A previous commenter’s concern about bandwidth reminds us that the Digital Divide issue needs to be on the table. Schools that cannot afford to help children learn reflect a wrongheaded philosophy about government spending. An iPad, once again, is not a Tomcat. Education first! 

        • Khalil el-saghir

          Unfortunately, many stakeholders, especially teachers, still consider technology as a mere set of instructional tools and not as a means to fundamentally transform eduction at last! The vast free web-based content available to students and teachers does support this bold move toward open curriculum. Kudos to BHS!

  • Bwillis34

    Have been a huge advocate for this in our school system. One of the biggest challenges is Internet access at the home. How does this school deal with kids who do not have the means to afford access at and take full advantage of this type of program? Great work by the way!!!

    • Barb F.

      I admire the concept.  But in reality most school will not have the bandwidth required for this either.  But you are very correct, when these are brought home most kids in cities and many kids in the country will not have the internet needed to even use them.  And, I’m sorry, but here in Baltimore most of these would get stolen by other kids and either sold or ruined quickly so they can’t be tracked.  It sounds like a major waste of $ to me.

      • Melovechocolate

         I disagree that it’s a waste of money, and I disagree how we dismiss the ipad as “obsolete” because a new version comes out. In all tablets, you can find information through a simple browser and download books/articles, etc–you don’t need to buy a new one to to learn “better”. They all work for what schools need them for. We’ve had them for a couple of years and we’re doing great. You don’t have to worry about publishers giving school reps/teachers perks or compensations for buying the books that they want you to buy (That *ABSOLUTELY* happens). You have the teachers choosing the best materials based on quality and content. Keeping the ipads at school is another alternative (which is what our school does), which would touch on another subject: LESS HOMEWORK (because there is absolutely no research nor proof that homework actually helps kids learn better). We need to change our education system.

    • http://twitter.com/bhsprincipal Patrick Larkin

      There are a number of resources so that students can save items on the device to read them at home if they do not have access to the internet. The good news for us was that two years ago when we out in a new wireless infrastructure, the school district partnered with the town to out the same infrastructure in all of the town buildings. Students can go to the library and there are many town businesses that offer free wifi. In addition, Comcast offers the families who have free or reduced lunch wifi at the cost of $1o per month.

  • Cz

    The problem I have with the reporting is that there was an error on air. When talking about The Khan Academy the host stated that it started for Salman Khan to teach his “Sister” math. It was then accepted as fact by the guest and I am sure many/most of the audience. That is wrong. He started teaching his cousin math using doodle notepad and then expanded it to YouTube to help more family and friends learn math. What worries me is that people will learn what is the “common idea” as opposed to the correct idea. Full disclosure, I watched the 60 Minutes report, and checked Wikipedia to make sure I was correct in thinking it was his cousin. 

    • Guest

      I caught that as well. I kept waiting for the guest to correct her or for her to correct herself, but it didn’t happen.

      • Robin

        Ack! Sorry about that.  I happened to see the
        60 Minutes and jumped in to explain but just goes to show you shouldn’t trust memory!!


      • http://twitter.com/schinker John Schinker

        Interesting. I caught it too, but thought it was gracious of Patrick to not correct Robin on a point that had no relevance to the story. She had obviously ad-libbed the interjection based on her previous experience with Khan Academy, and can be excused for missing a relatively minor detail.

    • Lee Poi

      Would not want facts to get in he way of hype, would we?   ;)

  • Denise

    How do kids know that what they are looking up on the internet is correct or not if they haven’t learned it yet?  They could be looking up sites with incorrect info and not even realizing it!

    • Dave in Des Moines

      True!  What happens when they happen upon a racists website about The Civil War?  This is really dangerous.

      • Lennie

        Thats where the group and the teacher come in, to help evaluate the validity of the information.  They addressed this in the interview.  This actually makes the kids think about these issues as well, developing critical thinking skills is important and not that easy to teach.

        • http://twitter.com/bhsprincipal Patrick Larkin

          Thanks Lennie for making that point. The bottom line is that whether we like it or not, our kids will be doing the majority of their research on the internet. This has nothing to do with Apple or any other tech company.  We need to help them navigate the web with a critical eye because there are a number of sites that are full of misleading facts. Here’s an example from a class I taught last year http://www.patrickmlarkin.com/2011/03/how-do-your-students-use-google-to.html

    • http://twitter.com/rtw4 Todd Whitten

       Part of the point is to have the discussion about what is “correct?” You can find confirmation of anything via the internet. (aliens building the pyramids, Elvis still being alive, Tupac being alive, up is down…) Both as a parent and as a teacher, I’d much rather my children and my students have a guide with them as they go through the process of learning to use the internet and discerning what information they should consume, and what they shouldn’t.  The alternative is that they just peruse the interwebs on their own, never talk about it with anyone, and then discover years later that, in fact, the Onion is not a good news source.

  • Mtoldman33

    I am absolutely blown away! Educators who are definitely thinking outside the box. This discussion opened up so many possibilities; what is the impact on the budget? iPad vs 6 or 7 textbooks; access to the most up to date information on any topic; the ability to work collaboratively at any and all times.
    What a beautiful answer to those Texans who are determined to impose their beliefs on all of the rest of us through texts.
    There was an earlier comment about the inability to learn programming via an iPad; as a retired IT professional, I don’t think that programming is for everybody. My experience is that people who are interested in programming will find a way to learn it.
    Thanks for bringing this idea to our attention.

    • Lennie

      I agree.  When the Kindle came out I told my wife (a high school teacher) that these would be the textbooks of the future.  Now I see that tablets and the web make even a single source text obsolete.

  • Mike in MD

    So all of our schools will be dependent upon using only content that Apple approves?  That sounds very dangerous! 

    • Lennie

      Apple doesn’t approve the Internet.  These people being interviewed were not even buying Apple’s e-textbook offerings.  You could as easily do this with any tablet computer, Apple is just good quality and there is the option to make use of their i-text stuff which will no doubt be state-of-the-art.

  • Monster Zero

    Call me old-fashioned (though I’m a 30-something), but what benefit does this initiative have for students if they simply accept a technology and the device it spawned as the primary vehicle of knowledge or service delivery without understanding how the tools preceding it functioned? Isn’t that an important part of learning? We all know, for example, the mechanism required of writing or typing; even novice drivers can figure out what’s wrong with their cars if they stop running. But an iPad…that’s an extremely complex piece of equipment, arguably more complex than an ordinary desk or laptop…the point and click (or swipe) nature of the iPad makes it so easy for any user, but the mechanisms behind those actions infinitely more complicated. Have we (prematurely) reached the point where children especially take for granted that these tools simply exist (and, to Mike MD’s point, that their only supplier is Apple)?

    • Melovechocolate

       It’s just a tool. Kids still need hands-on labs for science and other hand-written projects. I don’t think the ipad is going to be used to keep the kids connected for the full day..

  • Barry Goetz

    This program  bothered me. One, a teacher was asked to comment on the program from the same school and in earshot of his principal. Shouldn’t there have been another voice to comment on the use of such technologies. Two, it was not the ipads themselves that bothered me but the association between on-line learning and “learner centered” education. Even with ipads, do teachers not have a duty to inspire their students with great books? Will then learn about American history by just “discovering” it on their own “without books” and simply by exploring the internet? I am a professor and the single biggest problem I have with my students is that they do not read. And not just that, but what they do read they expect to be short and with little complexity. So, ipads, fine, but what kind of materials do they get off that Ipad? How do these educators KNOW that the sources they are using are reputable? What sights are students using, exactly? And if everyone goes to a different sight, how can the class discuss what they’ve read?

    • http://twitter.com/bhsprincipal Patrick Larkin

      I think it is sad to think that a teacher could not comment in earshot of their Principal.  I think if an educator cannot speak freely in front of their administration then we have a bigger problem.  If we cannot have open conversations about some of the complex issues that you discuss then our students will suffer.  

      Students need teachers more than ever just for the reasons you describe. We need to guide them in determining what is a valid source and what is not. Whether we like it or not, they will be doing the bulk of their research on the internet at this point.  Here is an exercise I did with a class I taught last year http://www.patrickmlarkin.com/2011/03/how-do-your-students-use-google-to.html

      As you can see from the results, they need our help in determining the validity of sites. If we din’t teach them this, where will they learn it?

      • PK

        I am not sure in reality anyone can express their true feelings and views on any matter in front of their superiors without the fear of being either terminated, ostracized, sidetracked, especially when they are in contrast with the views or the positions of the bosses. I have not seen in my almost two decades working in corporate America and I have seen subtle hints going by my experience with the elementary and middle schools of my son that almost same constraints must be faced in school level educators too. The bigger problem that you are suspecting is universal in my opinion and only ideal – virtual – world may be immuned from it.
        I agree with your point though.

        • http://twitter.com/rtw4 Todd Whitten

          Well, I’ve spent my career in education, so I can’t comment on what corporate America is like, but A) please rest assured that if I disagree with Patrick I’m free to speak my mind without fear of reprisal. Had there been a question asked on which we disagree, I would have done so.

          B) I would not have agreed to appear on such a program if I were not able to articulate why I am on board with using iPads in the classroom.  To appear and merely be a mouthpiece isn’t my style, and I would have declined to be interviewed.

        • Melovechocolate

           Oh please. If there are people who can say whatever they want, it’s the teachers. Try to terminate them for expressing themselves to their superiors, and the one who will leave will be the non-union superior.

    • http://twitter.com/wfarren William Farren

       Students can read thousands of great books on their iPads (or other devices), many of them free and in the open domain. http://www.gutenberg.org/ Most high school libraries cannot match the richness or variety of what’s available through a web-enabled device.
      As far as textbooks being reputable, unbiased, tools that foster a love for learning, check out “Lies My Teacher Told Me” by James Loewen.
      Maybe one of the reasons students, as you claim, do not read, is because they’ve had to endure years of textbooks devoid of any interesting, controversial, current, provocative content.

      • BEEZ

        One concern that is raises to me is the relationship a student develops with literature. I feel like without the physical contact and intimate experience of reading a book, it may be detrimental to the development of a new generation of writers and thinkers.

        • Melovechocolate

           Sorry to tell you Beez..but this emotional attachment to paper books is generational and unsustainable. I too grew up with books and had an extensive library (i couldn’t take it anymore–we donated most of our books and made room for our readers and apple computers). The relationship to literature can still be as rich with an electronic reader! my kids have proven it to me. They read more than I did at their age :)

    • http://twitter.com/rtw4 Todd Whitten

       Hi Barry-
      I think there are lots of perspectives on whether or not technology is the source of all things good or evil in this world, and they exist within my school.  Any teacher’s primary duty is to inspire his or her students to learn about the world around us.  This can happen through any number of ways, not least through a great book.  My students use the iPad to access the world’s great authors (as William points out below, Gutenberg.org has so much to offer, and so to does Fordham’s portal http://www.fordham.edu/halsall/mod/modsbook.asp among many others), and they read the complete text/selection in the context the author intended, and not the heavily edited and redacted and bland selections chosen by the textbook publisher.

      I believe that part of the responsibility of the 21st century educator is to check what sites the students are using, take the time to help them think through the perspectives and points of view that the site is representing, and decide whether or not they wish to adopt this point of view as their own. Rather than rely on a packet I made when I started teaching 15 years ago, I can adopt new sources that will pique their interest in part because they are on the cutting edge of research, and in part because they are more relevant to the world today.

      Lastly, in my experience, if you have groups of students each on a different site, the conversation that develops is even richer, because rather than simply parrot back the same things, students can engage in a discussion about why the different sites present the information differently, analyze what must be behind the different portrayals and come to their own understanding of the event being discussed.  In my view, that’s actual learning, and the iPad (or any device like it) makes that more possible than a textbook could ever do.

      As for speaking my mind in front of my principal, please see below.


      • Reggie M.

        Can I have another serving of green kool-aid also?  ;)

      • BEEZ

        Thank you for the links. Also, I would like to commend your comment to “take the time to help them think through the perspectives and points of view…”
        I feel critical thinking is sorely lacking in today’s younger generation.

      • Shannon Murphy

        Your students could have done all of that already with the existing PC infrastructure, but teachers don’t seem to want to here that because they like the Apple, which is not an excuse to throw thousands of tax payers money down the toilet.

        • Melovechocolate

          Ipads are portable, lighter, and you can combine ipad use with group activities; have the kids move around, go outside..You can have amazing tutorials on science and physics and other subjects by moving the ipad–it is infinitely better than a clunky, stationary, cumbersome PC!!! I’d rather spend my tax money on a better education that the deplorable status quo-based education we presently have!!!!!!!!!!!!! These kids are OUR FUTURE and need all the right tools.

        • Triptik

           I am a computer teacher so I speak from experience. ipads are not computers…that’s what make them so much better.  They are the learning tool of choice, inexpensive, portable and are of much greater value than many existing PC infrastructures.  Get on or get out of the way!!!!!!

      • Melovechocolate

         I want Mr. Whitten at our local public school!!!!!! Bravo!!!!

    • Minikruzer

      dumbass u tell them the books to download and they get them

  • Jim

    “And it’s not happening just in wealthy suburbs. Schools in urban districts like New York City and Chicago are also handing out iPads.” And where do they think those schools are? I’m in a school district that is in a suburban area and times are a changing. You don’t have to be in the suburbs of a metropolitan area or in the metropolitan area to be wealthy! I really take umbrage to that condescending statement in the quote. 

  • susan price

    We’re all benefiting by using the IPads in the classroom. As a foreign language teacher at BHS, the versatility of the IPad in the classroom is phenomenal. With this technological device, I have a language lab right in my hands. I can view and hear student recordings, videos and podcasts right in my own hand. I am grateful for the BHS Summer Tech Ed Camp as I learned all about the magnanimous Apps and features of the IPad. Why just the other day, I had my students view (as if we were in an art museum) the annual BHS Art Exhibition in the library/ had them take a picture using their IPads of their favorite art piece; had them individually connect their IPad to my laptop and then  to my LCD projector  and had them discuss the picture in French. What a great interdisciplinary lesson. 

  • Padmalochan

    Kudos to you Mr. Larkin and your team, for bravely attempting and seemingly implementing successfully as well what sounds like a true 21st century education model.

    I was an instant fan and wonder how long it took for you to win the necessary vote in your school district/board, what level of challenges were faced from regulators, parents, teachers and students.

    I also wonder whether you already have or would plan to create sort of a blueprint for similar program or better yet a pilot for potentially interested but somewhat clueless PTAs, school districts or teachers in other parts of the country.

    • http://twitter.com/ericconti Eric Conti

      Mr. Larkin has hosted well over 30 districts to visit BHS this year.  The planning documents and acceptable use policies are all available on his blog – http://www.patrickmlarkin.com.  BHS hosted a New England 1 to 1 Summit several weeks ago with over 350 participants.  At the end of June BHS will host a digital curriculum collaborative where teachers like Todd Whitten can work with other history teachers across the state to develop web-based curricula that any teacher can use and modify.  Curriculum developed for teachers by teachers.

      In regards to the school board, Mr. Larkin worked with us for about a year.  We, in Burlington, view technology as our fourth utility.  I hope no community would accept providing electricity to only half of their classrooms.  The difficult part of this effort, which falls on teachers, is still instructing children in an engaging manner. 

      Mr. Larkin has also been inclusive of of parents and the community.  In addition to his school, he works to have Burlington be a tech savvy community and hosts many evening sessions for parents and community members on Web 2.0 tools and social media.  We have all benefitted from the generous support of local tax payers and a positive partnership with the other departments in Town.  This partnership and community support is a critical part of any blueprint.  Of course you will need outstanding school leadership like Patrick Larkin and world class teachers like Todd Whitten.  

  • Kathleen

    I would have liked to hear more about how teachers make sure that students are not using their iPads to update Facebook pages, text, etc.  If you have 25-30 kids in a  class it must be a Herculean task to keep them on task.

    • http://twitter.com/rtw4 Todd Whitten

       Hi Kathleen-
      It actually isn’t all that hard.  I find it is the same as keeping kids from passing notes or talking to their neighbors.  The vast majority of students in school behave themselves the vast majority of the time, so it isn’t as bad as all that. It does require vigilance, an understanding of social media, a standing offer to read any “overseen” posts aloud to the rest of the class, the creation of an engaging and interesting lesson plan, a willingness to incorporate social media into the classroom, a sense of humor, regularly moving around the room in unpredictable patterns (getting out of rows really helps with this)…

      One benefit about the iPad that I didn’t mention is that it can’t keep multiple windows open like a laptop–so to exit what they are doing, students have to go back to the home screen, which is a dead giveaway that they are doing something they shouldn’t.

      And if they aren’t using it responsibly, you just take it for the period. or the day.  But honestly, so far this year, I’ve not had to do that in any of my classes.  So maybe we’re selling the kids short…

  • http://profile.yahoo.com/GUDRFKTYHNU4P5LUABWQRUF5NE Go

    The transition from textbooks to etextbooks  is not as easy as it sounds.  Now, it’s make me wonder is this some sort of campaign? A campaign for affordable textbooks/option  and interactive learning would be great but to impose brand loyalty on our students, educators, schools~ I don’t think so.

  • http://twitter.com/LindaAragoni Linda Aragoni

    We in rural areas must do a lot better job of advocating for a piece of the action exemplified in this all-iPad district. Even if rural schools wanted a program such as this and had the money to make it happen, the infrastructure needed to make it viable may be lacking. Families in
    rural areas often don’t have access to anything other
    than dial-up service—and that may be reachable only as a long distance
    telephone call. 

    • Johnson D

      Let’s be honest.  In most urban and suburban schools a school-owned laptop or iPad taken home will likely be lost or stolen within a month or two about 10-20% of the time.  What happens when the machine is gone and the student has no other computer?  Do they fall even more behind?  While this might work fine in a rich school, in the real world this is destined to fail much the way the early laptop programs failed 4-5 years ago… unless the school is prepared to replace lost machines throughout the year and perhaps 1/2 of all machines annually.  I doubt if the taxpayers will want this!

      • Pcm25

         Morning Johnson D. As someone deeply involved in the Maine 1to1 laptop program now in its tenth year, you couldn’t be more wrong. My middle school, with an average of 650 tto1 laptops, can count the lost ones on one hand over that time. I believe the total lost or stolen state-wide over the 10 years is under 2 percent.

  • http://twitter.com/rbrietzke rick brietzke

    Sounds interesting but more details are needed….curriculum, benchmarks, expectations, rubrics,  sources of materials, etc. 

  • Anonymous

    I cheered throughout this entire segment. I loved how Robin’s (justifiably) skeptical questions were answered with a lot more than catch-phrases. And even if there were naysayers among the teachers, who cares? This is an evolutionary move on the part of this school and its visionary and bold leadership. If teachers don’t like it (or cannot handle the pressures of developing content outside of adopted textbooks), I am fairly sure they can request a transfer, and be replaced by teachers who get it.

    THIS is the future, folks – our kids already live in this new world of information, and the old world needs to be left behind. Because I REALLY don’t want my child’s learning to have been decided by the ultra-socially conservative Texas book-adoption committee…

  • Martin

    Has anyone at these schools measured how powerful the wireless electro magnetic radiation is,  that will be caused by the use of a school full of wireless devices such as these?

    Has anyone looked at the mass of scientific research which shows serious biological effects caused by this same wireless radiation?

    Do the schools not realise the the World Health Organization has classed this type of microwave frequency wireless radiation as a possible carcinogen?

    Its about time that the school officials go back to school and do some serious research about the significant dangers that they will be causing to their children and staff. 

    A good place to start is the Bio Initiative Report – http://www.bioinitiative.org

    • Melovechocolate

       If we look into the amount of carcinogens we take in through our air (especially if you live in a congested city), all of our processed foods (EVERYTHING), the GMO fruits and vegetables, the chemicals in our creams, shampoos, plastics on our furniture, residue from our dishwashing soap, residue from our detergents–and on, and on, and on..we would never get anywhere. The trick is keeping your body healthy to help fight off carcinogens. The electro-magnetic radiation we get from our daily computer use is just a drop in the bucket compared to everything else we take in throughout the day. STAY HEALTHY. (which is another problem in America)

  • mdb

    At least these students are being set up to be good little consumers!

    • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100000471761767 Timothy Powell


  • Kathy

    Has anyone examined how students with disabilities will access this information?  Is it fully accessible?  Very often, e-books have Digital Rights Management (DRM) issues that get in the way of full accessibility to the information in the books.

  • http://www.facebook.com/jamie.aprile Jamie Aprile

    I have a real problem with this because part of the point of early education is to teach young people how to do research and place questions and problems in understandable frameworks. Structure is required at early levels to educate them in what constitutes acceptable levels of rigor and peer review for ideas and information. They can’t figure that out themselves through googling topics.  They need a basic set of rules and information before they can branch out to discover new things and problematize issues and facts. Teachers are not inspiration leaders. The internet is NOT an acceptable source for knowledge- it is only a collection of ideas. All knowledge is not created equal, and instructing young people in relativistic attitudes toward information is dangerous. A good web developer can make the most ludicrous argument look more respectable than a legitimate (often less well-funded) provider of peer reviewed, edited journals or sites when students have not been instructed in how to “grade” the quality of the source.  Books provided a convenient short-cut for this problem since most publishing houses of non-fiction material have some sort of editorial process to weed out the foolishness.  The google algorithm is a marketing tool as much as a true research engine. We cannot allow search engines and group think to overtake our culture and society. Education needs structure in its early stages, and the lack of structure is the most powerful component of the internet. As a college professor, I can see the weak research skills high schools are churning out in action every day. Students can think critically, but have absolutely no skills in finding, remembering, and deploying QUALITY information. 

    • Jim

      Jamie, you are absolutely correct. This is the one aspect of computers in the educational process that is wrong. Not only does early education “teach young people how to do research…” it is supposed to teach them how to spell, put a sentence together in a coherent manner and put it all into a paragraph in a publication. We are losing that with the introduction of computers into the elementary education. To me, there is nothing wrong with looking up words in an electronic dictionary, but doing research is much more independent. I, myself, am guilty of “googling” something and taking wikipedia as the correct explanation of a subject. I do genealogical research and get so would up in the internet’s sources that I have to stop once in a while and say, Whoa here! Think this out. I used to teach computer applications in a local community college. One thing I did for a final project, was after a semester of WP, SS, DB, and PP, the class was to use all three and write me a short story about their trials and tribulations in working with these four applications. For some it was a real struggle. 

    • Anonymous

      I agree with your sentiment, but you are painting with a very broad brush (maybe a paint can).  The internet is a lot of things, including a source of excellent, peer reviewed academic periodicals.  Websites like Khan Academy and MIT Open CourseWare are top notch, for example.

      The job of teachers in these districts is to define the appropriate use of iPads as learning tools.  It can be textbook, workbook, library, and computer all in one.  It can also be distraction, cheating tool, crutch, and misinformation source all in one.  Basic grammatical and writing skills shouldn’t involve computers at all.  Skills such as diagramming sentences, building arguments, and proper usage of punctuation merely require enforcement of existing methodology; hope is not lost simply because the boys in Cupertino invented an iPad.

      Keep in mind that there are amazing novel uses for the iPad in classes like mathematics.  Kids can do workbook problems on the device and receive instant feedback and grading.  The potential benefits are too many to list.  Advanced learners can automatically see more difficult versions of problems to test a new skill while those who struggle can see the opposite effect.  Teachers can be notified of students who need additional help, and are freed of the burden of tedious grading.  This type of tailored curriculum will somewhat alleviate the need to physically separate kids from their peer group into skill levels, a practice which can be socially painful for those in transition.  

      I could go on, but you get the idea.  When you allow your mind to wander, all sorts of possibilities open up.  Today’s apps, ebooks, and websites may not unleash the full potential of iPads, but in the near future the sky will truly be the limit.  Teachers will need to adapt, and some will struggle.  But this is unequivocally a positive development.  

      One last positive thought – by purchasing an iPad for each student, the district has leveled the economic playing field.  Recent years have seen poor students disproportionately disadvantaged as a result of limited access to information and important 21st century tools.  Computing skills, like any skills, develop through time spent and repetition of actions.  If a family cannot afford a computer and internet access, the children in the household are missing out in a big way.  If the new normal is a school-issued device, the district will effectively democratize access in a way that no other expenditure could do.

  • Anonymous

    A wonderful story. You just cannot stop technology and progress. Eventually all the questions will be figure out and answers will be available for new schools trying this new way of teavhing and learning.

    Just want to comment on the small minds of some of some commenters. They have to bring the negativity of their own prejudices regarding Apple and android. So if you are on the android camp, do not try to diminish the work being done by the school for such silly thing as your personal operating system preferences.

    I am thankfull that there are people like Mr. Larkin brave still to try new ways to help our youngsters, in this day and age of dont rudtle feathers and keep your miuth shut.

    The best of luck to Mr. Larkin, his teachers, and staff. Success is reserved for the bold and the curious mind.

  • Janet Abercrombie

    Being in a 1:1 school, I’m a big fan of tech integration. As I read about digital textbooks, I wonder if they truly revolutionize learning, or if they are simply textbooks in a different format. 

    Specifically, I’d ask the following questions to those adopting iPad textbooks:
    1. How might textbooks be used to spur project-based learning?
    2. In what way can the iPads and eTextbooks be used to facilitate collaboration and creativity?
    3. To what extent are textbooks automatically updated? Will the updates require an update in the version of the iPad?

    Textbooks can easily go digital. I hope that, when buying digital books, school leaders and teachers will work together to imagine how classroom learning might look different with the increased technology.

    Janet | expateducator.com

  • http://www.diplomacyandbusiness.com/contact/ Business Culture Training

     You have made really some good points in this post.
    I appreciate your writing skills. Its good. Keep it up.

  • Doughtnutgirl77

    I think all schools should have iPads as textbooks next year!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  • http://www.lewiscollege.co.uk/index.cfm/it-advanced ITQ Course

    It will make study more intresting. The great thing about the iPad is you just turn it over and it’s done.

  • http://www.onetestexpress.co.uk/ Frank

    Wish I’d found this blog earlier. Some really great
    posts.Very interesting. I hadn’t thought of some of these things before.

  • Neil

    Bravo to BHS. I graduated in 1982 before the word Internet was every uttered inside those concrete walls and spent all that extra time cutting paper bags to cover those text books that the town’s taxpayers (thanks mom and dad!) kept paying for year after year. I’m on my first iPad now and since I turned it on a few weeks ago I feel like my level of learning has skyrocketed — I’d love to go back and add this technology to my education. German class with Mr. Doyle would have been a trip … hopefully still with that real trip we took to Germany in the learning mix. Bravo to Burlington for showing leadership …I guess being 2 minutes from America’s Technology Highway has rubbed off. 

  • http://outcased.com/ Click here

    Thanks for this informative post.You have done a great job by sharing this post with us.Keep it up.

  • Toysoldier46552

    As a college student this concerns me, I know back when I went to high school students used to deface their text books, or they would become damaged from rain because of home work and studies. Now we’re handing out Ipads to students? The device could buy a year’s worth of text books especially with the cost of the online books.

  • http://imobilerescue.com/ Ryan

    Very cool. Patrick was on a mission!! 

  • http://www.easybooktraining.com/ Easybook Training

    Great post.Any updates coming soon?

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100000471761767 Timothy Powell

     We have used iPad’s in my school. It’s like watching monkeys fleeing their poo. Their is not security, and students were very consistent with updating their Facebook, and watching YouTube. I don’t even think the school’s wifi was in compliance with the child’s online protection act. I am a tech-guy myself, and knowing how this technology works and can be easily manipulated, I say nay, Apple may keep it’s tablets. The other problem I had, and still have, is an inconsistent wireless (wifi) network, which will only hold a connection for about two seconds before disconnecting. My final problem, with Apple products in particular, is that they release two or three a year. Okay,  maybe only two on a good year. I own an iPad one, so when it became “obsolete” after last year, Apple refused to add iOS 6. If these devices are supposed to make it cheaper, then why must we replace them every two years. Technology is not something to put all of your weight on, it is a tool. Tools can be easily manipulated. BTW, any students who are blocked from getting on Facebook and other sites, look into VPN (Virtual Private Networks) or SSH tunnelling.

  • Shannon Murphy

    So this tells me the principal knows nothing about IS/IT and is a complete lemming to Apple marketing. Great job

  • Trashana

    wow i wish my school would have ipads

  • Trashana

    i dont know why my school doesnt have ipads its a bummer:(

  • Melovechocolate

    Patrick Larkin is an outstanding example of the kind of leaders we need in our school system. Our education system is beyond dreadful and we need MAJOR changes. He chose to shake off the influence of major publishers whjo make money on schools, and chose to get REAL, up-to-date information from the web. teachers need to move with progress and not stay entrenched to methods that are clearly failing. I LOVE that Mr. Larkin consulted with students about how THEY want to learn! Our local school district has a motto: “Children first”–yeah, RIGHT. Mr. Larkin is WALKING THE TALK. My hats off to him!!! It’s a new method and there’s always a learning curve, but nothing ventured, nothing gained.  They are doing fine, and I am certain they will be successful. As a parent, *THAT’S* what I want–someone who is willing to try something other than what we know is failing. If teachers aren’t handling the change, then they either need to move forward and learn how to manage or stay behind (but away from kids). This is called PROGRESS. It’s a bit pathetic when the students need to prove to these reluctant teachers the amount of knowledge that they have at their fingertips, and the teachers refuse to go along. There are an infinite amount of websites that give ratings, reviews and recommendations for reputable sources/ resources, as well as tutorials on materials that can be used. As for Mr. Barry Goetz-a professor (!!!) who is asking “how can they discuss what they’ve read”…Where have you been, professor????! My kids are using ipads in 6th grade, and they have BLOGS. Posting on these blogs to discuss what they’ve read is part of their HOMEWORK. Our school is doing an outstanding job with ipads, and our kids are doing outstandingly well, and on standardized tests our school is above average. can’t have more proof than that. KNOWLEDGE IS POWER. A teacher is supposed to know that better than anyone.

  • Ssp9870

    One thing Sid said that rang hard in my ears – that it is easier to take a picture of some thing in his disected cat and label it than it is to draw it. So he has a tool to make his homework better, and he saved a lot of time, but did he learn more by taking that picture, or would he have learned more by taking the time and drawing all the parts?  I dont deny that technology is the future of industry and therefore the future of education, but the side effect is that technology allows us to let others think, so that we dont have to.  

    • http://twitter.com/patrickmlarkin Patrick Larkin

      I see both sides of this statement, so I don’t think it is an either-or situation. I think the bottom line is to consider what the goal of the learning is…If it is to be able to draw a cat well, then obviously your suggestion makes sense, but if is is to be able to label the internal organs of a cat or anything else, then I think this way makes more sense.

      As educators, we still need to focus on learning outcomes and then consider the best ways that our students can show that they have met these outcomes. The best way in my mind is to have multiple ways for students to show their level of proficiency.  

  • Jeanne

    When my son taps in an assignment on his iPad, what would take 20 minutes to handwrite becomes at least a 40 minute assignment. I’m with him and know he is not goofing off. He spends part of the time on formatting instead of focussing on content, which wouldn’t be an issue if he were to just handwrite. I understand it’s easier for the teachers to not deal with messy handwriting, but the poor kid spends much longer on homework than the teachers intend. Has this come up in your school and how have you dealt with it? 

    • Melovechocolate

       There’s a learning curve–once your son gets the hang of it, it will be second nature to him(especially with all the techy gadgets that are constantly coming out).

    • http://twitter.com/patrickmlarkin Patrick Larkin

      Jeanne – If your son is som much faster at writing it out, I would ask that he be able to submit some of his assignments that way. He could take photos or scan them with a free app called Genius Scan and then turn them in like everyone else. In the meantime, he should be working on his keyboarding skills so that he can get a little faster. A better option which some of our students utilize is downloading the free app Dragon Dictation and then dictating their rough drafts. 

      If the issue is not having a physical keyboard then there are some great iPad cases that have blue tooth keyboards attached. We have some keyboards in our library that students can check out if they need a keyboard. 

  • Fwinter123

    So whats next? Do away with Human teachers and let a robot monitor students and discipline noncompliance students 

  • Vanessa Rios

    I want to do this for my son on our iPad, but I don’t know how to do it can you help me. My son is in 7th grade, my email is vsjncrios@yahoo.comm. so if you can please help me, it would be great. Thank you!!

    Vanessa Rios

  • Jill Farley

    There are serious medical problems associated with this. Ask any ophthalmologist.

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