At a recent Board of Education meeting, Dr. Joan McGettigan, director of instructional technology for Darien Public Schools, gave a presentation and discussion on the 1 to 1 iPad program.

The purchase of the next round of iPads was approved in the Board of Education budget.

According to McGettigan, the iPads create “optimal teaching environments” and “allows for mobility within the classroom.”

When using the newest iPads, teachers are not locked to the front of the room, she said. “They can move all around the classroom with the iPad, [and] put student work up on the board,” she said.

Pilot program, Vanguard group

An initial iPad pilot program began at DHS in the spring of 2017 with approximately 90 students and a small group of teachers.

The iPad program began in November 2017.

According to McGettigan, based upon a recent survey, iPad usage is currently very heavy in ninth grade, somewhat strong in 10th grade, and drops off in 11th and 12th grade.

With the new iPads, she said that students are able to demonstrate learning “in new and creative ways that help deepen learning.”

As an example, in band class, students can annotate music right on their iPads, she said.

The goal with this new version of iPads is to create learning experiences that are “active, personal, collaborative, and relevant, and designed to empower learners to be creators who believe their work matters,” McGettigan said.

“We will choose roughly 10 percent of our faculty per year to become part of this Vanguard group,” she said.

The Vanguard group will be composed of a balance of people of all different technological abilities. This group will become iPad certified teachers “to lead by example,” she said.

“We need to embed research practices into the life of the school,” McGettigan continued. “By analyzing, evaluating and reflecting on collected data routinely, we can adjust the program where needed.”

She said she will continue to evaluate, evolve and build the program on the basis of “continual innovation, aimed at creative transformative learning environments.”

DHS students praise new iPads

Two Darien High School students shared their experiences using the latest iPads. Toby Cowles, an 11th grader and founding member of I-team, said Darien High School has done a lot to make improvements to the iPad program.

He also said the new iPads work well for Google Docs. “The newest software update allows you to use the web-based version of the Google Docs, which many students are more familiar with,” he said.

In addition, he said Apple’s iWorks, which is the equivalent of Google Docs, works very well with graphical media.

“It allows you to integrate images very closely in with your text and design very graphically representative projects very easily, and enables some stuff you cannot do in Google Docs,” Toby said.

Furthermore, the new iPads have cameras, and many students make use of them to bring graphical representations “from the physical world into the digital one,” he added.

DHS has provided students with a large range of creative apps that allow them to do handwritten work, according to Toby.

“However, taking full advantage of those apps on the 11th and 12th grade iPads is difficult, as they do not work with the Logitech Crayon, which requires you to use your finger to draw,” he said.

The freshman iPads are the first iPads to have the Logitech Crayon.

He said he heard from many freshman that the Logitech Crayon has completely changed the way they use their iPads, “and it opened up new doors for creativity and practical applications.”

A Darien High School freshman named Sophie said she loves her iPad.

“The Logitech Crayons are amazing,” Sophie said. “I use them to be more creative or to relax. I’ve used it to study or to organize my thoughts.”

Sophie spoke about several apps on her iPad: Notability, Autodesk SketchBook, iBrainstorm and Concepts.

Notability has been used in all her classes, she said. She studies with it, rewrites her notes, and does problems on it.

It provides her a variety of colors so she doesn’t have to go out and buy many different colored highlighters and pens, she said.

Sophie uses Autodesk SketchBook to draw, as well as study for math tests or quizzes and biology.

Concepts and iBrainstorm apps are used to organize one’s thoughts, Sophie said.

“Concepts allows you to draw detailed diagrams,” she added.

For those who have trouble with technology, Sophie said iBrainsorm is “really easy to navigate and there are so many different options to use it for.”

Another use for the new iPads, according to Sophie, is it allows students to do homework and study even when there is no Wi-Fi. This feature comes in handy on bus rides, car rides and plane rides.

“It lets me download everything that I need to do,” she said.

Sophie is a member of the DHS Achievers Program, and said she relies on her iPad for every aspect of her project. This includes making podcasts, educational videos, and making and editing movies.

Next steps

McGettigan said she’ll be studying and collecting quantitative and qualitative data on iPad usage.

“It’s really important to keep your community apprised of things that are changing, evolving, [and] successes, and failures too, and how we address them,” she said.

Watch the full Board of Education meeting on Darien TV79.