South Bay schools on an iPad mission
By Rob Kuznia/Daily Breeze
...At Pacific Elementary School in Manhattan Beach, fourth-graders in Paula Noda's class no longer write essays about an annual trip to a mission in Orange County - now they put together an iPad video, complete with theme music, sound effects and panning...
...Leading the charge is Manhattan Beach Unified, which purchased 560 devices for a pilot project this fall. That's one machine for every dozen kids in the K-12 school district - although many more students get a little face time with the iPads, as the devices are rotated from class to class, usually on a cart with wheels.
When it comes to the use of the tablet computer in the classroom, Manhattan Beach is the district to watch - and not just because it has purchased so many. For one thing, it is training teachers from throughout the South Bay how to use the tablets. Perhaps more to the point, the district is trying to take a scientific approach, meaning it is not only charting a pedagogical course, but taking data in the process. Specifically, the district is periodically surveying students, teachers and parents on the effectiveness of the pilot.
"We want to demonstrate that it helps teachers to teach and students to learn," district spokeswoman Carolyn Seaton said. "If we can't demonstrate that, then this isn't a pilot worth expanding."
The verdict so far: The iPads are enhancing the learning process.
But the rosy review isn't without its caveats. For instance, preliminary results show that the high levels of enthusiasm exhibited by teachers and students at the elementary level tends to wane slightly as the age groups get older, with high schools demonstrating the lowest levels. As for test scores, they've gone up significantly in the one example studied by the district to date: a middle-school science chapter test on DNA, where the percentage of students scoring proficient or better has climbed in a year from 63 to 76 percent.
Another caveat: The initial wow factor seems to be waning somewhat.
A Pacific Elementary fourth-grader works on his California Mission movie project on his iPad. (Brad Graverson/Daily Breeze)
Also trending downward was the share of teachers reporting that the iPad has made the classroom a more innovative place for learning: from 82 percent in November to 68 percent in January...
...Tablet technology doesn't come cheap.