By Peter Fullam, Whittier Daily News

POSTED: 04/07/14, 7:11 PM PDT |

LA HABRA >> In a sign of what may be in the future for American education, Whittier Christian High School is set to launch an all-iPad curriculum.

“Right now, we’re doing a pilot, so 70 kids every 30 days get this one-to-one experience,” said Chris Sanita, director of curriculum and instruction. “But in the fall, every student and teacher at Whittier Christian High School will be using an iPad.”

Sanita says that while the goals of higher-level thinking and lifelong learning have not changed at Whittier Christian, the tools and techniques have changed. Students must learn to use current technology to compete in education and the job market, according to Tools and Technology for a New Generation of Leaders, the school brochure on the program.

Teachers will no longer be the sole content providers in classrooms. Instead, students will have access to other resources on the subject.

“When a teacher talks about the Roman Empire, (students) can find people and scholars who are writing about the different theories of the Roman Empire right in the classroom,” said Sanita.

“Not everything out there (on the Internet) is good and viable,” said Sanita. “We’re trying to train students how to be sort of technology and media savvy beyond playing complex video games.”

The students in the pilot program of James Walker’s U.S. History class on Monday were studying the Cuban missile crisis. They had an interactive $9 eBook from Brown University Press on their iPads that allowed them to highlight notes for study cards, answer questions, see pictures, and check out other aspects of the particular part of the book they are reading.

“All these cool interactive things are imbedded in the book,” said Sanita.

The students submit their work to Schoolology, which informs the teacher, who then grades the work.

“I like it,” said Hyelin Cho, 17, a junior international student from Seoul, South Korea. “It’s more interesting than the book.”

Cho is one of eight international students in the class.

“It way more faster and easier to write and take notes,” she said.

John Oresko, a 16-year-old junior, said he used it in French class to look up a word the teacher couldn’t remember.

“When the need for work arises, wherever I am, I can take this out and work,” he said. “It’s a convenience.”

It also eliminates the chore of lugging around a backpack full of books.

“I don’t have to bring anything else to class, it’s just this,” he said. “I don’t have to go back to my locker.”

Using the iPad instructional program, “teachers become kind of crafters of learning scenarios for students where they teach them to ask their own questions.” said Sanita. “It allows kids to go beyond themes.”

An upgraded mobile device management system filters online content on the wireless network and student devices on campus, but allows students access to Facebook and other age-appropriates sites off campus. The iPads must have at least 32 gigabytes and can be purchased for $300 to $600.

That initial cost is offset by the reduced cost of eBooks as textbook alternatives.

“I love it,” said history teacher Walker. “It’s transformed the teaching experience to where they’re doing deep research.”

In the French pilot class, students can speak into their iPads, record their pronunciation and play it back, and submit their work to their teacher, who can comment on it and send it back.

“We like the iPad,” students Grace Grannis, Torri Estrada and Ester Wen, all 14-year-old freshmen, said in unison at a table in the French class.

“It makes me more organized,” said Estrada.

The “big picture” payoff Whittier Christian is looking for is more student engagement in education, better performance in college, and better careers.

That has yet to be determined, Sanita admits. But he’s confident the iPad students will outpace their non-iPad contemporaries.

“What we’re really excited about is to be able to put a lot of information in a student’s hand, and then asking them to dive deeper.

“We can see it in the classroom.”



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AuthorChris Sanita