Since the 2010-2011 school year, every Milwaukee Montessori School student in upper elementary and above must own, lease or rent a tablet computer. While it may seem pioneering, many independent schools instituted 1:1 programs as early as 1995. That said, we are well ahead of the curve and one of very few independent schools implementing 1:1 tablet use with students as young as the 4th grade.
The over-riding goal of the program is to make the information processing power of the computer available to students whenever and wherever needed, and while tablets are used for the vast majority of tasks, students will be asked to use other means to complete projects. This approach augments the use of pencil and paper, which is still used in some unique situations, and adds the benefit of sharing documents, organizing homework and folders, allowing graphics and links to be added to work and enhances all forms of academia with picture, video and audio support.
The following are some more specific reasons why we have tablets at MMS.
1. Schools that help their students and teachers harness the information processing power, which tablet computers provide, will place their students at a competitive advantage. Students will be more engaged in learning the content of the curriculum while at the same time developing deep competency using the problem-solving environment provided by the tablet computer.
2. Tablets help promote a positive shift toward more project based, hands-on learning, and away from lecture-based lessons.
3. Writing is done across the curriculum. Students do more writing and revision when they have tablets and are free to handwrite their drafts or to type directly using the word-processing capabilities.
4. Mathematics education is made richer and more engaging with the aid of software tools like spreadsheets, Geometer's SketchPad, Google Sketch-up, and Mathematica. Additionally, student math work, which is executed using tablets, becomes immortalized so that students can develop a 5-year portfolio of their math work, which includes tests and quizzes as well as practice problems.
5. History and geography education is enriched by students having immediate access to the vast wealth of information available on the Internet. Tablets provide a platform for the creation and presentation of multimedia-rich projects.
6. Science education is greatly enhanced by the data gathering, data analysis and simulation software tools that run within the virtual digital laboratory the computer provides.
7. Foreign Language educational success correlates strongly with the time students are able to spend in immersive environments. The multimedia capabilities of tablets allow students to spend more time listening and speaking in the language of instruction. With the right software, and a set of headphones, a tablet can function like a language lab workstation. Tablets also provide access, through the Internet, to the media of the countries where the language of instruction is the native language.
8. In art, music and drama tablets provide easy access to examples of best practices. Students visit virtual museums, listen to music clips, and watch videos of great performances. Students also use a variety of software applications to assist in the creation of artwork, music, scripts and digital video.
9. Tablets provide easy storage and access to a student's accumulating body of work. By viewing previous work students can better gauge their own progress and avoid repeating tasks already accomplished.
10. All students develop a strong competency in using computers. Providing tablets to students goes a long way toward eliminating any digital divides in the use of technology.
11. Lessons continue from the classroom to the home or any environment where a student can continue learning or work. This work can be shared with a teacher over a network or developed independently but this engagement encourages work outside of class.
12. Students develop many more real life and professional skills at an early stage using the tablets. With the continued exposure to tablets students are advancing their use of programs and procedures that are used in the work place and on college campuses in advanced classes.
In sum, enabling students with tablets helps create a more humane school environment in which drudgery and deadening repetitive tasks are minimized while exploratory and creative tasks are maximized.
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