There has been a lot written about this project in the local news and not all of it positive. However, what I saw today while visiting the school was nothing short of amazing. I saw engaged students and teachers using the devices in a variety of ways.
From their website:
Welcome to our 1:1 iPod Touch program called iCougars! The iCougars@KHS project seeks to increase student achievement of our high school students through a student-centered, one-to-one mobile technologies model by providing every student and staff member with personal access to a mobile computing device in a wireless environment. The mobility of these devices will allow staff and students to use them for learning both inside and outside of school, engaging a 21st century 24/7 learning environment. Mobile devices in class will enable students to engage in research, team projects, classroom activities, and academic coursework. Beyond the school campus the devices will remain in the hands of students, available for homework, email, extra-curricular activities, independent learning, and problem solving. Using the devices for formal class work as well as independent study and personal interests, students will gain not only immediate academic benefits but also valuable 21st century skills that will benefit them in their lives and careers. 1700 students and nearly 100 teachers will participate in the largest iPod Touch implementation to date.
We were able to visit 4 classrooms today. We saw students in a Japanese 1 class using a variety of apps to learn not just to speak but to write the Japanese language. We saw a photography class using the devices to copy notes from the teacher, then using those notes heading off to different websites to do research. The next part of their assignment is to create flash cards with definitions of terms on them. Finally, they are to "bump" their devices with at least two other students to share their flash cards. Then they can compare and determine which definitions are better and can delete the ones they don't select.
We were also able to visit with a multimedia class, actually the class that creates student news show at Kearns. They have a lab full of computers yet the students were out shooting video and recording audio and video interviews with their iPod Touches connected to some of the coolest homemade tripods, and steadycams I have seen. This teacher has found apps that at least illustrate and mimic the concepts as all of the software he has on the PCs. He stated that the students actually grasp the concepts better from the iPod apps and are able to transfer that learning to the PC software.
Finally we visited a debate class. These students told us stories about how they use their iPods for 15 minutes and would have kept going for hours I think if school wasn't ending. One young lady talked about the difference the iPod had made for here. She talked about the fact that her handwriting was so terrible that even she couldn't read her notes. So she rarely had anything to study from for quizzes and test. With the iPod (and she had an iPad keyboard dock she was using with it). She could now take notes quickly and most importantly read them easily Due to this her grade were rising. Then another girl shared that her GPA had gone from a C- in the first quarter to a B+ in the second quarter after the iPods were rolled out. She attributes that success a lot to the iPod. Someone in our group asked if anyone else's grades had gone up. 24 of the 26 students raised their hands and a few more shared stories of how the iPods had helped them feel and be more successful. One young man offered that his biggest problem in school was keeping organized and the iPod helped him to do that.
Finally we asked one more question of the group. "Have your feelings about school changed since the introduction of the iPods?" All but one raised their hands to signify that their feelings towards school had markedly improved since the start of the program.
This is all anecdotal evidence, but I think when real measure are taken, Kearns High will see some astounding achievement growth. They have already seen astounding school pride growth.