At Kennedy Catholic, we spend a good deal of time thinking about technology, and it’s not just because we field two championship robotics teams. All of our classrooms are paperless, and all of our lessons are online. Kennedy students access their lessons through school-provided iPads.
When Kennedy first made the decision to drop text books in favor of iPads in 2012, we had a hunch we were in the vanguard of a brilliant movement in education. Now, over 7 years after Apple’s release of the tablets, there is quite a bit of empirical data that shows our hunch was correct.
Before closing up shop in 2014, the Pearson Foundation had done two surveys regarding tablets in the classroom. They learned that 86 percent of students using iPads believed the device helped them with their studies. Seventy-six percent of the users felt they performed better in class. This jived with an Oklahoma State study of college-age students that found 75 percent of students surveyed agreed that their iPad made learning a better experience. A study by text book publishers Houghton Mifflin Harcourt backed up those impressions, indicating that students using iPads saw their math test scores increase 20 percent in one year compared to students using traditional textbooks.
What’s the science behind these stats? Our experience is that working on a tablet draws students into the lessons more deeply. It adds a tactile component to the learning that mere textbooks cannot match. Plus, most students enjoy working on the iPads, so they are engaged, and their enthusiasm is contagious and spreads to those students who are initially wary.
We have also found that, being a private Catholic school, we have less difficulty controlling the culture and so can avoid the problems reported by some of the early adopter public schools. In the Kennedy environment, we are better able to implement filters, manage bandwidth, and minimize distraction.
Of course, our gym has been more crowded since we switched to iPads as our scholar-athletes need to find another way to build biceps, absent carrying around those towers of text books, but that’s a “happy problem”…