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Copenhagen iPad-based learning instills initiative

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COPENHAGEN — The results from a recent survey of 92 middle school students at Copenhagen Central School suggest students are embracing the new “KnightPad” iPad program.

“On a typical school day, students use their iPads between four and seven periods out of 10 periods a day,” said Darlene M. Rowsam, Copenhagen technology coordinator.

In October, each student from sixth to eighth grade received an iPad. The survey found that at home, 41 percent of students used the iPad for less than an hour while 34 percent used theirs for less than two hours.

“A minimal amount said that they used it more than that, which is what we want to see. We don’t want them to become so tethered to technology that it affects their social activities,” Ms. Rowsam said.

About 20 students were out sick when the survey was given.

The school regulates the computer tablet. Only educational applications are uploaded, and all Internet traffic is filtered. Typical apps include iBook, Keynotes, My Big Campus and iMovie. In English class, students have access to their textbooks and may make notes from the text.

“It lets them be more independently driven,” English teacher Charity M. Smykla said.

Some students, such as Alex J. Herzberg, are even searching out more ways to enhance their learning.

“I like it. I’m still getting used to it, but it offers a lot of ability to go to websites like (Lizardpoint.com),” Alex said.

He demonstrated to history teacher Mike Thomson how to find the world geography-testing website.

“They think of it as an instructional tool, not gaming. ... It’s a good step forward,” Mr. Thomson said.

“It teaches them to be critical searchers,” Ms. Rowsam said.

Students who are encouraged to use their iPads for finding an answer feel invested in their education, she said. Survey comments include “I like that teachers think we’re more responsible and it helps for one-on-one with the teachers” or “I have more control over my things and I know where everything is. I also learn better from it!”

“It used to be standard, standard, standard,” Ms. Smykla said. “This school district allows them to be unique in their learning, which is not something education does.”

There have been a few complaints about the new system. In the survey, students wrote, “I’m not a fast typer,” “There isn’t any fun games on it” and “We depend on them too much. One time did updates and couldn’t do any homework for next class.” But overall, Ms. Rowsam said, the program seems to be off to an excellent start.

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