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LA Teachers Get Their Hands on the Future as iPad Era Begins

Brenda Iasevoli | August 6, 2013

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The start of training

More than 100 elementary school teachers from around the Los Angeles school district gathered Monday at Theodore Roosevelt High School in east LA as one of the first group of instructors to learn how to use the Apple iPad, a key teaching device in the academic year that opens next Tuesday.

These K-through-6 teachers were from among 47 district schools with the least access to digital technology. They are receiving the first wave of iPads — about 30,000 for students and 1,500 for teachers — with another 600,000 awaiting distribution within a year. In workshops like this one, Apple employees are teaching teachers the basics of their new electronic tool.

“These iPads are not a silver bullet,” said Jaime Aquino, LA Unified’s deputy superintendent of instruction. “The silver bullet is an effective teacher in every classroom.” But, he added, “having this technology is going to impact teaching and learning and transform the lives of students.”

The iPads, a five year, half billion dollar investment by LAUSD,  are being introduced as school districts all across the country are implementing the new Common Core standards that will change the way English language arts and math are taught.

Aquino said the iPads will allow a teacher to provide individualized instruction without being obtrusive. Rather than hover over a struggling student, for example, she can send a hint or a prompt and the rest of the class will never know.

It also helps principals and teaching coaches to be inconspicuous, says Aquino. “With an iPad, I can send the teacher a private message that says, ‘Try this,’ or ‘Ask this question.’ I won’t be intruding on the lesson at all,” he said.

Aquino walked from room to room, visiting each training session, motivating teachers and stressing the importance of providing students with modern technology

“This is an issue of social justice,” he said. “Our kids need to be ready for the 21st century. A reality check, guys? We are already 13 years into the 21st century.”

The workshops focused on basics: setting up an Apple id, logging in, opening and closing apps. The main lesson: keeping mischievous kids on task. The “guided access” feature allows teachers to control where and what kids do online. If a teacher wants students to stay on a kid-friendly site and watch a video, she can lock students into the site by disabling the home button. The student cannot choose to open another app and play a game instead.

The teacher can also restrict access within the web page. She could circle, for example, the address and search bar. Once circled, the area is blocked, and students are unable to type in another web address or search term.

Most teachers appeared undeterred by the complexities of the iPads. They say the devices are necessary in preparing students for a future that will require technology skills.

“My students are from low-income families,” said Andrea Clawson, who teaches kindergarten and first grade at Apple Academy in south Los Angeles. “They don’t have iPads and laptops at home. They need these iPads to practice their computer skills as early as possible, so that they’re ready for the online tests in 2014.”

The next steps will be to train elementary teachers on how to use the Common Core content, developed by the British firm, Pearson, that is loaded on the iPads. That training will take through Wednesday, when the iPad rollout continues with training for middle and high school students.

Previous Posts: Roundup: LAUSD / iPad Story Goes Global, Apple to Replace LAUSD iPads if Broken, Stolen or Damaged, Low-Income Schools Getting First Wave of New iPads

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