With the swipe of a finger, freshman David Blinkhorn minimizes an in-class assignment and accesses an online textbook. Then he turns his iPad mini toward Stephanie Heidler, who reviews the text and dictates a Latin translation on her own device.
At the front of the classroom, Christine Hahn looks down at her iPad. Each student’s work instantly appears on her screen.
“I know in the olden days we learned Latin on paper,” Hahn said. “But this is more fun.”
Hahn’s students are among 470 freshmen and sophomores given iPad minis this year as Archbishop Hoban High School promises to eventually put a tablet in every student’s hand.
The devices replace burdensome books with half-inch thick tablets that allow students to access with ease homework, assignments, notes, textbooks, resources and more.
In the class, teachers connect iPads to Apple TV devices that turn a handheld screen into 5-foot tall projections. Students answer survey questions from their desks, prompting discussion about the day’s instruction.
In essence, the technology creates an online education exchange, allowing students and teachers to interact during lessons.
For teachers, the devices streamline grading and assignments. Learning management software — similar to Blackboard services used in online college courses — provides students with upcoming assignments and events. Materials and resources are linked to the assignments.
The process is paperless. Students annotate answers directly onto documents.
And they can no longer claim ignorance or say they forgot their homework.
“You can see what’s coming up for a month. ... It’s all there,” Principal Mary Anne Beiting said. “You can’t say I left it in my locker.”
Beiting said the technology and rollout, coined as the Hoban Connected iPad Initiative, has been in the pipeline for years.
A core group of teachers pioneered the use of iPads in 2010, tinkering with the devices and exploring educational opportunities. Hoban educators visited fellow Catholic schools from Columbus to California to research best practices. The group attended Apple workshops as far away as Cupertino, Calif.
With each Apple release, Hoban has added iPads.
In May 2012, every teacher received an iPad. The school used private funding to make wiring and Internet upgrades that summer in preparation for expanding the program to students this fall.
In August 2013, parents attended hour-long sessions with students. Teachers led the sessions, which detailed proper usage and expectations in an iBook, created by Hoban staff specifically for the rollout.
The devices, given to each freshman and sophomore during those August sessions, were purchased using state funding normally allocated for textbooks and materials. More than $184,000 in Hoban’s state funding was allocated for the purchase of iPads last fiscal year, according to Akron schools, which retains an administration fee for distributing state funds to Akron private schools. In all, $600,000 of the state’s $133 million in Auxiliary Services Funds are earmarked for Hoban this year, according to records from the Ohio Department of Education and Legislative Service Commission.
The money can be used for just about anything. Hoban has elected to stay ahead of the technology curve while maintaining integrity.
“I think that’s one of the things that Hoban does well: balancing tradition and innovation,” Beiting said, referring to the school’s faith-based structure.
There’s no turning back from technology-driven instruction. “We want the students to be prepared for the future, not for our past,” Beiting said.
At the heart of Hoban’s technology is a human.
Tom Hottinger, a former math teacher, stepped into the newly created technology integration specialist position last year. His job is to “gently help” teachers along the way.
He’s been a part of the iPad implementation from the start. He stressed that the program works best when students, and their unbridled free will, are not limited.
“We want them to use the iPads as if it’s theirs,” he said. Students are not limited by which applications can be downloaded or what content can be viewed, including games and social networking sites.
Last month in Los Angeles, public high school students were not trusted with those privileges. However, a week after receiving iPads, 300 students found a way to circumvent the devices’ security settings to access restricted websites and material. The $1 billion initiative to get iPads out to all Los Angeles students was halted and a moratorium was placed on the used of iPads already issued, the Los Angeles Times reported.
Hoban students are allowed to surf the Web and download at their leisure. Still, there are some limitations.
Hoban’s website explicitly prohibits students from “jailbreaking” iPads, a hacking process that allows the user to bypass the App Store while posing threats to the device’s integrity.
Teachers monitor usage and administrators ensure that expectations are clear. Students discontinue personal use when class begins and parents have been receptive, Hottinger said.
“We want to make sure we’re being responsible in showing them how to be responsible in using an iPad,” he said.
“Students are the digital natives. They’re teaching us and we’re teaching them.”
Doug Livingston can be reached at 330-996-3792 or firstname.lastname@example.org.