The One-to-One Program: IPads at RMS

Last Thursday, I sat down with Mr. Lepene, Associate Principal of the Richmond Middle School (RMS), to ask him about the 8th grade One-to-One program. This program provides each RMS 8th grader with an iPad for the year. The iPads, however, belong to the school, and not to the students.

Why do this? Why buy 100-200 iPads that cost 499 dollars each?

RMS seeks to move students from dependent to independent learners. By using iPads, students can easily find resources on the web. But the internet also comes with distractions. As a result, students learn time management. This prepares 8th graders for high school, where they will be independent learners in charge of managing their own time.

During my conversation with Mr. Lepene, we discussed the use of iPads to read ebooks. Prior to the interview, I thought most books would come in a digital format at RMS. However, RMS will only use the ebook format when the digital version contains material not found in its print counterpart–primarily math, foreign language, and social studies texts. With an iPad, students can annotate their textbooks, rather than furtively writing in the margins of a paper textbook. Mr. Lepene also believes the advantages of an interactive text, with links and videos built in, outweigh the cost of reading on a small screen. Previously, students could access these materials, but with significantly more effort. Making this supplemental information easily available will make for more engaged students.

After hearing these arguments in favor of using iPads, I raised the concern that the omnipresent iPad would diminish the role of the teacher. But this is not the case. Sometimes, students will use iPads for an activity for part or all of a class. Other times, and more commonly, students won’t use the iPad at all. The iPads at RMS are like HHS laptop carts. They are not used for every class. However, they are a resource that teachers can use to present information in a more user-friendly manner.

As a result, 8th graders will not stay glued to their devices all the time–that habit will take a few years to form during high school. And although the middle school endorses the use of technology, the school merely provides a tool. Each student must decide how he or she will use it.

The RMS administration has some control over how students use their iPads. The administration reserves the right to take away the device without notice, filter web traffic, and monitor student emails. Mr. Lepene made it very clear to me that even though he can monitor students’ emails, he does not want to. He would only do so if he received specific information that involved the safety of a student. Additionally, the administration feels it has a responsibility to do some light filtering–mainly of violence and pornography. But, as Mr. Lepene pointed out, if students want to get around the safeguards, they can. He understands that the school can’t protect students from everything on the web.

I also asked Mr. Lepene about the goal of the program to promote environmental literacy. He commented that the school had noticed a significant drop in paper use after introducing iPads. However, I pointed out that iPads contain precious metals, and obtaining these materials could put more carbon into the atmosphere. Mr. Lepene responded that he would bring up this issue in the RMS environmental meeting, as the school had not done a study of the long-term environmental impact of using iPads.

Overall, this program accomplishes many things. First and foremost, it introduces students to a new medium through which to gather information. This exposure helps students.

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