DOVER-FOXCROFT, Maine — Paper and textbooks are hard to find these days at Foxcroft Academy.
The high school began its second year with its one-to-one Apple iPad tablet program this semester. After a year of learning what the tool can do, teachers have been able to implement new methods in their classrooms.
The school uses roughly 550 second-generation 16GB Apple iPads for its students and faculty.
Using the iPads has caused Foxcroft Academy to stop buying as many textbooks. Instead, textbooks are purchased as applications, or apps, on the iPad. In most cases, the eBooks are a fraction of the cost of standard textbooks.
“There’s quite a wide range of textbooks online,” said Robert Weber, who is a science teacher. “This is a $20 book for what we’re using in anatomy class. They have the ability to blow up diagrams, go back and forth between diagrams and use the search function to get to the diagram we need.”
Head of School Arnold Shorey said each iPad and case to protect it costs the school about $530. They will be replaced every three years.
“We’re shifting costs,” Shorey said. “An anatomy and physiology book on iPads is $20. If we bought that in a textbook, it would be $120. So that’s six years worth of a textbook.”
But unlike with a textbook, said Shorey, students can highlight and take notes in the book on the iPad and not have to pay a damage fee. In fact, the student can keep the eBook forever instead of turning it in at the end of the school year.
Shorey said the cost to switch to the tablets has been a wash.
However, due to insufficiently protective cases, last year saw a 30 percent damage rate, said Shorey. The iPads were insured, and the cases have since been replaced.
Because students have grown up with the technology around them, they have embraced it, said Shorey. That wasn’t always true of the teachers, however.
“When we signed up with Laptops for Teachers five years ago, there were some teachers who put them in their filing cabinet and only brought them out when we said you had to,” said Assistant Head for Academics Jonathan Pratt.
Pratt said some of the same teachers were resistant to the iPad at first, but have since made it a part of their curriculum.
“It’s such an easier-to-use device” than a laptop, said Pratt.
Apps are also available to help teachers organize their courses.
English teacher Derek Smith uses Edmodo, a Facebook-style communication platform that helps him keep in touch with his students.
“You can construct a quiz in Edmodo and see how well the students did,” said Smith. “If we have a snow day, we wouldn’t really have to make it up” because everyone can see what needs to be done on Edmodo.
Fellow English teacher Mia Morrison has embraced iTunes U, where she has created her own junior honors English course.
“It’s not interactive [like Edmodo],” said Morrison. “It’s a flat platform.”
Morrison said Apple has shown an interest in what she has done and is flying her out to California next week to give a presentation on her course.
Students in a sophomore chemistry class got excited when the eClicker app was going to be used. The app is a multichoice game that tests a student’s knowledge on a subject and shows how everyone answered.
“They go, ‘Ooo, eClicker, eClicker.’ I don’t know why. It’s the same questions that are in the textbook in a lot of cases,” said Weber.
Senior Kate Morrison said she enjoys how interactive the learning is now.
“There’s apps for everything,” she said. “If you don’t understand a word or concept, you can Google it really quick or you can open an app. You’re always understanding and you’re more interactive.”
Another student, senior John You, said the backpacks are lighter without so many books.
“Everything is digitized and available at the tip of our fingers. It’s the best thing to utilize education,” said You.
Shorey said the iPad will help students become 21st century learners.
“Sometimes I go to conferences and I hear my colleagues say, ‘Well, technology is a crutch.’ I pause and scratch my head. In today’s world, technology is a tool and a very valuable tool,” he said. “If our students do not know how to use those tools, we’re failing the students.”