OK, children, time for a pop quiz. Everybody take out their iPads.
It's definitely not what students heard in most classrooms throughout history. But, for seventh-graders this fall, it's about to become reality.
And, according to the Principal Mark Manning, it's also the future of education.
As part of a continuing pilot program, the Morris School District has purchased about 400 iPad2 tablets for the entire seventh-grade–as well as seventh-and-eighth-grade teachers–and expect to have them in those students' hands by October.
Funding for the initiative, at $190,000 including insurance, was made possible through , which allows students from neighboring districts to apply for vacant seats within the Morris School District. These vacant seats, in already established classes, do not require any additional expense on the district's part, said school district Business Administrator Christine Kelly.
The program began last year when every second-through-fifth grade was given about 10 iPads with which to use in classes. "The crux of the whole thing, the engagement and enthusiasm we got with that particular device was unmatched," said Morris School District Director of Technology Tim McDade. "What we found was a tremendous excitement for that particular device."
Its second phase will put the iPads into the hands of seventh graders. Unlike the elementary school part of the pilot where the iPads stayed at school, these tablets are going home with the students.
Manning acknowledged a concern from some over care of the expensive devices. Hence, the insurance. He also noted some concern over whether students will be able to stay focused, without the allure of the Internet or games. Much of that access will be restricted and controlled by adults.
Also, "it’s incumbent upon our teachers to be doing engaging work with our students and with the technology, so a student isn’t interested in going off and playing Angry Birds," he said. "There needs to be a level of relevance. The students need to want to stay where the teacher is.
"They need to be learners alongside their students," Manning continued. "In some cases, the kids know more than we do. There’s a learning curve for both. That beauty of the symbiotic relationship is going to become ever more critical."
Manning said that attention will be kept through the seemingly endless sea of apps–many of them free–available for the iPad, which can do anything from call up maps of the world through Google Earth to presenting an animal dissection.
The decision to start the 24/7 iPad pilot project in the seventh grade, instead of sixth, came based on what educators felt was an adequate maturation level to give the students the fulltime responsibiity, Manning said. Both students and their parents will be given instruction and discussion throughout September, to familiarize everyone with the project and get them ready. The principal said he hopes the students will have the iPads in their hands by mid-to-late October.
As long as the pilot proves successful, Manning anticipates it continuing throughout the district. As far as he is concerned, this is only the beginning of what is quickly becoming the norm.
"It shouldn’t be seen as an event, or unique or special," he said. "This is a tool that will be infused into everyday teaching and learning the way ballpoint pens were 50 years ago.
"It’s their future, it’s the world they live in," Manning said. "It’s time for schools to keep up with kids, not just kids keeping up with schools. There's a paradigm shift. Education needs to shift with it."