Apple in Education Profiles

Creating new possibilities in the classroom with iPad.

The iPad one-to-one program uses technology that’s already a big part of students’ lives to make them more excited about learning.

The inspiration

Located about 20 minutes outside Boston, Burlington High School is a public school in a middle-class suburban community. Its student body of about one thousand 9th-12th graders has performed well by traditional standards. With a 100 percent pass rate on the state examination and 95 percent of graduates going on to college, it appeared that Burlington had no need for change.

But the progressive-minded faculty felt they weren’t doing enough by just helping students perform well on tests. They wanted to adapt their teaching methods to an increasingly digital world, to help their students better prepare for real life.

The educators at Burlington recognized that students get most of their information from the Internet. “So students need teachers more than ever,” says former principal Patrick Larkin. “We need to guide them in determining what is a valid source and what is not.” By incorporating digital literacy standards into the curriculum, the goal was to create a teaching environment using the same technology that students were already using outside school.

“iPad has allowed me to be so much more creative than I ever could have been before. It’s reenergizing for me to walk into a room with boundless possibilities.”

— Todd Whitten, history teacher,
Burlington High School

It was important to the administration to move away from traditional textbooks. Burlington chose iPad as a learning tool because it gives students access to the world as it is today. “We saw this as a huge opportunity to democratize information,” says history teacher Todd Whitten. “With iPad, students have this little lightweight device that contains more knowledge than a traditional textbook could ever have, and it’s all current.”

The implementation

Administrators at Burlington were committed to providing each student and teacher with an iPad to use throughout the school year. To purchase the devices, the school found funds within its existing budget by eliminating costly computer labs and deciding to forgo printed textbooks.

Teachers were thoughtful about their roles and how they might change now that their students had a device giving them ready access to incredible amounts of information. They regarded themselves not only as providers of knowledge but also as guides, helping students navigate and analyze information. “I believe that part of the responsibility of the 21st-century educator is to take the time to help students think through the perspectives and points of view of the sites they’re visiting, and decide whether or not they wish to adopt these points of view as their own,” says Whitten. “It is important to have the discussion about what is ‘correct.’”

Using iBooks Author, teachers at Burlington create interactive course materials for iPad to keep their students engaged. English teacher Tim Calvin is able to present students with more than just text on a page. “I can create a book that has pictures and videos and hyperlinks in it. It’s great to be bound not by what’s out there, but only by what you can make.”

Students and teachers across disciplines are finding new ways to make learning more interactive. In Spanish class, students practice speaking by recording and playing back their voices. In economics class, students pull real-time stock market data to create and track a stock portfolio. And in math class, college-bound students research market costs to create a realistic housing budget.

Giving students access to iPad also allows teachers to better adapt to their students’ unique needs and abilities. Students are no longer limited to writing essays and answering multiple-choice questions in order to demonstrate what they’ve learned. “As educators, we still need to focus on learning outcomes,” says Larkin. “We have multiple ways for students to show their level of proficiency.” With iPad, students have more freedom to express themselves. They can make a video, design a digital poster, or create a website. If a student prefers a more analog approach, teachers can be equally flexible.

The results

In its first year, the iPad one-to-one program has already made a big impact at Burlington High School. According to an end-of-the-year survey, the majority of students indicated that they were more excited to attend class and more organized in their learning than in previous years.

Teachers are seeing a different level of engagement — including richer, deeper conversations — from students when they use iPad. “Rather than simply parrot back the same things, students can engage in a discussion about why sites present information differently, and come to their own understanding,” says Whitten. “In my view, that’s actual learning, and iPad makes that more possible.”

“Having a say in your education is really powerful. With iPad, you feel like you’re more in charge.”

— Thabani, student,
Burlington High School

Larkin, the former principal at Burlington, has since been promoted to assistant superintendent of the Burlington School District. Because of the program’s success at Burlington High School, more than 50 schools from all over New England have come to observe the program in action. The school district has already expanded the iPad one-to-one program to its middle school, with the ultimate goal of expanding the program to grades K-12 across the district.

Products they use


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