This month, 9,000 Teach For America members are trading in their post-it notes for iPads thanks to a donation from Apple.
They are joining the growing ranks of educators who must decide how to use new iPads in their classrooms. It’s an open question facing teachers across the city who received iPads from their principals this year or bring their personal iPad to school from home.
Teach for America distributed iPads to its new teachers stationed in 43 regions of the United States, including New York City, over the past three weeks. The tablets, mostly refurbished first-generation iPads turned in by owners eager to upgrade when new models came out this spring, were donated to TFA by Apple earlier this year.
“Through this opportunity, corps members will explore ways iPad can be used as a powerful teaching tool in the classroom,” Danielle Montoya, a TFA spokesperson, said over email.
Teachers say they received the new technology without any specific guidance from TFA officials on how to use it.
A first-year special education teacher at a Bronx high school said he has not thought much about how he will use the iPad in the classroom since picking it up at the Upper West Side Apple store on Saturday, where he got an hourlong tutorial on how to set up his accounts. But he said he could foresee using note-taking applications to track students’ behavior and write reminders about meetings with parents.
“You just say to your iPad: ‘This student left class without permission,’ or whatever it is,” he said.
The teacher said Apple Store employees touted several education-related applications that they could purchase and download, such as Dragon Dictation, a voice-recording and note-taking “app,” and visual arts applications geared toward elementary-aged children.
Another TFA member who teaches in an elementary charter school said he had already put his new iPad to use, creating a system to track one student’s behavior.
“I have a student who has not responded particularly well to our classroom behavior system, and I am creating a different system for him where we track all the positive things he does,” he said. An added bonus: “He can use my iPad at the end of the day if he meets his goal.”
The teacher said he also plans to use it in a Social Studies class to play videos and presentations when hooked up to a display monitor already in the classroom.
The special-education teacher said he heard other TFA members discussed using the iPad in similar ways during a recent graduate school class they attend with some New York City Teaching Fellows at Hunter College. The Teaching Fellows in the class said they also would find uses for the iPads, but Teaching Fellows officials have not announced plans to distribute iPads to its cohort of first-year teachers.
He said TFA officials sent members multiple emails reminding them to pick up their iPads but have given few instructions on how to use them in the classroom.
“They treat us as adults who can make our own decisions,” he said. “They did tell us, if we did end up leaving the classroom, to pass it on to our colleagues.”