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June 30, 2011 7:40 am

EDITORIAL: iPads provide new learning opportunities

Written by Tessa Schweigert

Not all that long ago, a pencil and notebook were standard classroom necessities and, in the context of school, an “apple” simply illustrated the letter “A.” No more.

Pencils and paper will be used less, and Apples will take on a new meaning this fall as Powell students use Apple iPads to read, write and learn in new ways.

Every Powell student in the middle school and high school will receive an iPad for learning. iPads also will be shared among classrooms at each elementary school. District-wide, teachers have already received the digital tablets and are familiarizing themselves with the new tools over the summer to prepare curriculum and lesson plans.

The iPads are costly — $722,000 for 1,180 tablets (which includes a warranty and replacement plan).

However, by enriching the classroom experience with innovative and creative ways of teaching, the new technology likely will be worth the hefty price tag.

More than just a fancy encyclopedia, the touch-screen tablets can be used for every subject — mathematics, music, chemistry, Spanish, art, history, government, literature, you name it. Students can use the multi-faceted tablets to take a physics test, record a piano solo, read “To Kill a Mockingbird,” solve an algebra equation and watch a video of Martin Luther King Junior’s “I have a dream” speech, all within the course of a school day.

In addition to thousands of education-related software applications, teachers and students will have access to 350,000 free lectures, books, movies and podcasts through iTunes U, which gathers resources from the top universities, including Yale, Stanford, Oxford and MIT.

And, unlike a textbook that can become outdated within a few editions, students always will have the most up-to-date resources at their fingertips.

The new iPads also will help students at all grade levels familiarize themselves with technology — a crucial skill in a world increasingly dominated by technological advances.

It’s possible that the new iPads will cut down on the number of desktop computers the school district purchases and reduce textbook costs, actually saving money in the long run.

As school districts around America face budget cuts and teacher layoffs, buying hundreds of iPads seems extravagant. But the money is available, and why not give local students exceptional educational opportunities through new technology?

Powell students are blessed to live in Wyoming — a state with a budget surplus whose leaders value and invest highly in quality education.

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