BANGOR, Wis. -- There's a lot to learn in middle school social studies class, and the information is constantly changing.
“I have text books that are two years old that are out of date,” said David Burritt, Bangor Middle and High School social studies teacher.
So, occasionally students need to use other sources to do their research, but not everyone has the ability to get online at home.
“Part of what we want to ensure with our students is equal access to technology and to educational tools,” said Don Addington, Bangor Middle and High School principal.
And even in the classroom it can be hard to get your hands on a computer.
“One of the problems we've had here is that we have computer labs... we have a mobile lab and a stationary lab,” said Burritt. “And that mobile lab, we've found in the last couple years, has been filled. And we just can't get into it.”
So, the Bangor School Board and the superintendent decided to level the playing field for all students and provide an iPad for every 6th, 7th and 8th grade student in the district.
“They're not toys,” said Addington. “Some people have said they will hopefully, down the road, replace textbooks and that we'll use cheaper digital versions of textbooks rather than hard copies.”
But some question whether this was the best use of the district's money during these tough economic times.
“I think it is,” said Addington. “I think we're a small school, but we had this opportunity to be on the cutting edge with technology and we embrace that. And I think it’s very important to put that money directly into the hands of the students.”
Now with just a tap on the screen every student has access to much more information than can be found in a textbook.
“We did a little bit of research in class,” said Burritt. “We looked at the textbook information, statistics on countries, and we compared it to what it is today. So, the kids could see population growth per capita income and how all that has changed in just 2 years.”
The teachers are also looking through the thousands of free educational aps that are available to use as teaching tools in and out of the classroom.
“We use it for math,” said Signe Rowell, Bangor Middle School 6th grader. “We use our calculator and our atlas. And we have some of our science worksheets on there, and we just copy them down in our notebook.”
“There's a couple games that we put on that are review games of the stuff and the countries that the kids are doing, and they think it’s really neat, but they don't realize they're learning as they're doing it,” said Burritt.
And soon the iPads will be used for even more than research, online textbooks and skills games.
“Eventually they're going to be able to do their assignments on the iPad and then put it in something called a drop box,” said Burritt. “And they'll be able to upload their assignment to the drop box. I can get into the drop box, get their assignments out, and read their assignment. And there will be no paper used.”
The multiple uses of the iPad both in and out of the classroom will also teach these students skills they will need to know when they enter the workforce.
“When they graduate... when they get into the job market... they're going to be using things like this,” said Burritt. “In 5 years, these will be obsolete and there will be something new. But if they know this technology now it's easier to learn new technology when they get into that workplace.”
“These kids are 21st century learners and digital natives, and this technology is second nature to them,” said Addington. “And this provided us with an opportunity to put that technology and that tool into everybody's hands whether or not they have computer access at home."