Reproduced courtesy of EdSource:
As the effectiveness of technology in the classroom comes under increasing scrutiny, one California district encourages extensive use of iPads and other such digital readers, and says the benefits are clear and compelling.
A series of recent articles in the New York Times said research on the academic payoff of technological innovation in the class is slim to nonexistent. But Riverside Unified says some teens are studying more because they’re never without their e-readers. And their test scores are benefiting.
Riverside is the only district in California employing technology at this level, [Jay McPhail, director of instructional technology at Riverside] said. Two years ago it was non-digital and today has 10,000 district-provided e-readers — about a quarter are Android tablets, a quarter are iPads and iPod Touches, and the rest are netbooks. Those e-readers plus ones provided by students means the program has reached about three-quarters of the district’s more than 40,000 students, from pre-kindergarten through high school.
So far about 70 California school districts have toured Riverside to check out the program, and McPhail has been involved in demonstrations in several countries, such as Argentina, India and Korea. He recently worked with engineers in Istanbul; Turkey wants to provide a device to every student, he said.
McPhail did a controlled study on the impact of the iPad on Algebra I students who were taught by one of two teachers. Of the 10 classes these teachers taught, they used paper textbooks in eight and digital devices in two, which were randomly selected. Based on California Standards Test (CST) scores, 3 percent to 4 percent more students tested proficient or advanced in math compared with the prior year in the eight classes using paper textbooks, and in the two classes with digital textbooks, 19 percent improved to that level.
Although that’s the only controlled study yet done, McPhail says the district has seen growth in every area where digital textbooks have been introduced, even the most remedial. The lowest-achieving English learner students in three classes at Ramona High School were given an Android tablet. After using the tablets for a year, up to 7 percent of the students reached proficient or advanced on the English language arts CST.
The district also includes parents in this transition by educating them on the expanded learning opportunities offered digitally, such as access to the world’s libraries and videos that explain algebra problems. And they talk about how to protect students from inappropriate Internet content .
So far, teachers have volunteered to work with parents in sessions that can last from two to six hours because many teachers have been excited, McPhail says, about the educational resources available to students online. Teachers who do not want to use the devices can refuse to be part of the program, he added.
The teacher’s role has evolved into one helping students make sense of available information, as well as instruction on how to determine if it’s accurate, McPhail said, something teachers using traditional textbooks also have to do.
“It’s about digital citizenship,” he said. “How do you use it as a tool to learn?”
The digital textbook program at RUSD has helped to develop students with 21st-century mindsets who are better prepared and able to access information and continue lifelong learning through innovative technologies.
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