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Monday, January 7, 2013

Educator Answers Your Questions On iPads In The Classroom

Burlington, Mass. assistant superintendent Patrick Larkin shows off his iPad at Here & Now studios at WBUR in Boston. (Jesse Costa/WBUR)

Burlington, Mass. assistant superintendent Patrick Larkin shows off his iPad at Here & Now studios at WBUR in Boston. (Jesse Costa/WBUR)

Just north of Boston, Burlington High School is in its second year of its “one-to-one” iPad program. The school shelled out a half million dollars to put the device in the hands of every student, by using money that normally goes to buying textbooks.

In the past year, the school has used the iPads to replace foreign language labs, to allow sick teachers to Skype into class and to encourage interactive learning.

Tech-savvy students help keep things running by working with IT professionals at the school’s version of the Apple “genius bar.”

And now the program is expanding to the town’s middle and elementary schools.

In addition to the story on our show, we held a live web chat with Burlington assistant superintendent Patrick Larkin. To read all of the questions and answers, click the “Replay” button below. If you have any additional questions, please put them in the comments section!

Read The Web Chat Q&A With Patrick Larkin:


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

    My latest post on the iPad initiative here in Burlington http://www.patrickmlarkin.com/2013/01/is-ipad-king-it-is-for-us-and-thats-all.html

  • Murph

    Comment / question to Patrick Larkin… Since you’re not using textbooks, you are creating your curriculum materials in an e format for the iPad.   This obviously takes time and costs the district money. Do you have plans to sell your curriculum to other districts or are you sharing this as a resource for anyone to copy?

  • T Sanger

    A question for all the technophiles @ BHS:  if we are to embrace technology in almost every aspect of school life, why is the very outdated, barbaric and morally questionable practice of live animal butchering used in a class on HUMAN anatomy?  The majority of US medical schools and even the US military have given up the practice in favor of realistic simulators.  Perhaps some money could be used for them, although cats are no doubt less expensive in the short term…..

    • Maggie

      Is just cats!! Just kidding…

  • Raoul Ornelas

    For about three thousand years or more all that was needed  for learning writing was some sort of pencil. Plato never wrote his master piece The Republic on an iPAD. Leonardo Di Vinci never used and iPAD. Giuseppe Tomasi di Lampedusa did not use an iPAD to write his Sicilian masterpiece The Leopard and Hemingway never wrote A Farewell To Arms with on a iPAD. Pencil and paper are a thousand times cheaper, yet we continue to spend my tax money on iPADs which don’t seem to improve learning, or car race tracks as part of the Fiscal Mythical Myth phony deal which produced a modicum for revenue. Apparently now, if a young person at school does not have access to an iPAD he or she can’t learn! The simple process of using pencil and paper is good for students. This simple process exercises and induces the brain growth plus coordination of other areas of a young persons developing body including learning how to write. So what does a young person really for a quality foundation to learn? He or she needs a grownup at home to help them with their after school home work. To many households in America have two people working and are to tired to help their children with their homework. Really, this is just a slick promotion for selling Apple products (which are quit good) which in turn make money for investors and does not guarantee success in the class room.

    • E Beezie

      I think the question that must be answered here is-would they have used the iPad (or any other device) had it been available. I mean, we used horses for transportation for years. Should we go back to them? Certainly we were in better physical shape before cars and mass transport.  We also used to copy books by hand. Should we eliminate all versions of the printing press? It’s ridiculous to say that because people in the past didn’t have something, no one should have it now. Personally, I think DaVinci would have been inventing the iPad, not chastising it.  

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


      I agree with some of what you say, but the point is that none of the creators of classic work that you mentioned had the opportunity to use technology like an iPad.  While I have no problem with pencil and paper or someone who prefers to get a task done with those tools, I think we have to face the fact that the world has changed and that the jobs that our students will be working in will probably not be employing paper and pencils. Learning happens and it happens in many more ways than what you and I were programmed to think in our traditional experiences.

      Having said this, I think that the role of public education is to prepare students for the real world. The fact of the matter is that the people outside of our schools, in the real world, are using these tools more and more. My doctor walks into the exam room with an iPad in his hand and the pilot who flew the last plane I traveled on also utilized an iPad in lieu of his old flight manual.

      Whether we like it or not, I think that the our students need experiences utilizing modern resources like tablets or whatever comes next. While I do not think technology can be used to do everything (i.e. DaVinci’s masterpieces), I am pretty sure these great minds woud have taken advantage of modern technology. In fact, I am thinking that Plato would have been much happier with a pencil that had an eraser instead of something along the lines of a metal stylus that was probably in his hands at the time.  

      In regards to the change that has occurred with families in our world today, I do not think we can blame technology for that. My belief is that we can utilize some of the technologies we have available to keep families connected in a time when so many more factors keep them apart. While nothing can replace the physical presence of a family member or loved one, we need to be thankful that we have ways to stay connected when we can’t all be together in the same place.

      That reminds me, I need to facetime my son to see how his day went at school today. It’s so much better than a text or phone call. I am thinking Alexander Graham Bell would approve?!

  • http://www.ohioken.com Ken Palosi

    I tutor some kindergarten children in reading at a local elementary school. The coordinator of the program has a very structured program for the children. While the program is probably good and may do a good job overall I found by experience that the iPad may be even better especially with young children. I have on young boy who is very quiet and unassured of himself. He found the structured program so difficult and intimidating that he would start to cry every time I went to pick him up for tutoring. I talked to his teacher and with his consent I brought an iPad from home and introduced him to reading apps such as Starfall Reading and Reading Raven. He took to it immediately! In the weeks since then his improvement in reading skills has been remarkable. He is much more animated and is showing signs of coming out of his shell. I still use the structured program for another child, but at the same time I use the iPad as a reward for doing a good job on the normal work. Both of my grandchildren; ages seven and eight have been using an iPad for more than a year now and they are both reading at three grade levels higher than their classmates. I have a fantasy whereby I win the lottery and buy iPads for all the elementary students in my school district. Wouldn’t that be nice! Guess I have to go buy a ticket.

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


      We are also amazed at the progress students can make on their own with the implementation of the apps you describe. The key here is that the apps allow the students to see their progress immediately and it enables them to gain greater confidence in their ability. While it may not be the right choice for every student, I believe it is the best option for most.

  • Kimknott

    IPads have been introduced at my children’s elementary school following the growing trend. I don’t disagree that technology should be playing a larger part in our children’s curriculum, but throwing iPads at the students is not the answer. They are still just a tool in the learning process and the students need to be taught how to use them for that purpose. What I saw from my children was a lot of movie making and my sixth grader made some flash cards … To summarize, an iPad does not a good school make.

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

      Hi Kim,

      I could not agree more. Technology does not make a school or a teacher better on its own. However, if teachers are given time to learn ways to access the many resources that become available when a web-enabled device is accessible, then there are some tremendous opportunities to have a more engaging learning environment. Professional Development is very important and schools that just by technological gadgets, or any other resource, without thinking about ways to offer teachers training to utilize the resource are wasting their money.

Robin and Jeremy

Robin Young and Jeremy Hobson host Here & Now, a live two-hour production of NPR and WBUR Boston.

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