The 2019-20 school year marks the first year of iPads being used by students and faculty.
By Molly Mitchell, ‘20 and Josie Stewart, ‘21
Aug. 15 marked the first day of school for the incoming freshmen—looking for classes, meeting new people and learning about their new environment for the next few years. The week before, from July 31 to Aug. 9, marked the rollout of new technology for grades 4-12 in the UA School District.
For freshman Patrick Bertke, the idea of new devices was met with some hesitation after using laptops throughout middle school.
“[When I first heard about the switch], I thought that they were going to be okay. The only part I wasn’t too thrilled about was having to completely learn how to use them as comfortably as the laptops,” Bertke said.
Throughout the district, 4,300 32 GB 6th Generation iPads were given to students after the end of a four-year lease on the previous MacBooks, according to the UA
Schools website. The iPads have replaced laptops for daily use in class, assignments at home and state testing. The switch has caused mixed reactions among students and faculty.
English teacher Matt Toohey believes that this opposition is inevitable.
“We’re never going to make everyone happy. Certainly there are going to be protests and some people who absolutely love these iPads. I think it depends on the curriculum and depends on the teacher and depends on the student. I know they’re great for illustrating or for students who need to be policed a little more. Maybe some teachers will take advantage of that, but we’ll see,” Toohey said.
Toohey expresses concern for his students having to write on the iPads and anticipates timed writings to be more difficult.
“My chief concern in language arts is asking students to write with proper mechanics, punctuation and grammar when they’re certainly not used to writing with iPad keyboards,” Toohey said.
To combat anticipated frustration with digital keyboards, the district will provide keyboards for students on a short term or long term basis. As outlined on the district website, students can use keyboards for a single class period or for the duration of a certain project.
As a parent to both a freshman and a senior, Kirsten Barrett predicts that her older daughter will have difficulty completing her capstone project and college application essays without a physical keyboard.
Senior Matthew Giammar also believes that students will have to take time to adjust to the keyboards. Giammar is a Mobile Mentor, meaning he was selected to use iPads during the last school year as a test case.
“I think typing is going to be difficult. Even though they said people adapt very quickly, I have tried to type things on the iPad and found it very difficult because I don’t have that feedback when [I] press a key,” Giammar said. “But on an iPad, you don’t have that.”
The possibility to rent a keyboard for the use of these projects could combat this issue.
Although students will have to adjust to keyboards for writing-heavy classes, Chief Technology Officer Denise Lutz said that other students enrolled in classes using computer programs will receive carts of laptops to stay in the classrooms or entirely new computer labs.
“Kids who are taking the AP Computer Science courses will have access to laptops. Kids in Arlingtonian and [Norwester] will have laptops,” Lutz said. “There’s a brand new lab in the media center. The industrial arts [class] is also getting a brand new lab put in.”
Giammar was enrolled in Chemistry and Computer Science courses during the last school year and said
that laptops were necessary for those classes.
“I found it very good as an auxiliary tool to a laptop. [Chemistry and
computer science] both rely heavily
on programs that can only run on the
laptops such as programming Java and
data collection in Chemistry,” Giammar
said. “I found myself kind of falling back to my laptop a lot more than trying to use my iPad even though I was encouraged to use the iPad.”
The generation of students in UAHS, Generation Z or the iGeneration, have grown up with control over technology in and out of the classroom. One-to-one technology has been in the school district since the 2015-2016 school year. The UA Schools website says “[the] program provides students with one-to-one access to a technological device that appropriately supports and maximizes their learning.”
Toohey believes that although the technology is helpful, it is overused sometimes.
“Call me old-fashioned, call me a luddite, call me antiquated, but I think never before have students needed to get their faces out of laptops and iPads and computers… The last thing students need is more access to screen time. I know in my classroom,” Toohey said, “there won’t be a lot of screen time. We’ll read books and have discussions and make eye contact and do handwriting.”
The iPads also have tools for teachers to keep students on task and more restrictions to keep the iPads academically focused.
“[I think that] the new iPads are easier to use than the laptops. I found that getting around was less complex and pretty self-explanatory,” Bertke said.
Aside from the debates over keyboards, general use of technology and the loss of programs, students will grow accustomed to the iPads over time.
“Other than [computer programs], I think I’ll be able to adjust to everything with moderation,” Giammar said.
“As for a majority of things, I believe that getting used to the switch will just take time,” Bertke said. “Once [everyone] gets used to the iPads, they will be glad that we switched.”