A new chapter: iPads in and books out

 

FIRST-YEAR students at a Dublin secondary school were thrilled to be given iPads instead of books at the start of term yesterday.

Blake Hodkinson, principal at St Kevin’s College in Crumlin, said the tablets would change how the students learn.

“I reckon this will transform education. The students pay €150 a year and then they own their own iPad . . . There are no other costs. This covers woodwork, metalwork and home economics too and within five years the whole place will be done.”

According to Mr Hodkinson this system is 40 per cent cheaper than buying books. Until now the school provided books at a cost of €20,000 per year, with €4,000 of that contributed by families.

“They’re robust, and virtually virus-proof. There is a certain zeitgeist about them that children like. If we had gone with PCs, I’d be terribly worried about viruses,” he said.

One of seven schools in Ireland issuing iPads, St Kevin’s is using online books from Edco Digital which update automatically.

Teachers at the school already work with smart-boards. Geography teacher Denise McLaughlin said her classes will be much more interactive. “If I’m trying to explain about volcanoes, they can push a button and watch one erupting on screen now.”

French teacher Aisling Doran is looking forward to the day her Leaving Cert students have them.

“It will be fantastic for them, especially for the speaking test.” Ms Doran said she would continue using copybooks as “they still have to write in the Leaving Cert”.

Staff training took place last week, a session the trainer described as a “steep learning curve” for some. But the students couldn’t see any drawbacks.

“The iPad is better than books, you don’t have the heavy bags and it’s easier to organise everything,” said Peter Casey (12).

His classmate Pamela Gleide (13), in inset photograph with Jasmine McCann (13), was already at work, saying: “It’s whopper, there’s loads of apps on it. It’s less boring than books.” Both Jasmine and Nicky Pidgaynyy (12) thought the light weight – 601g – was the best part. “It’s deadly,” Jasmine said. “The books are just too heavy to carry around.”

And for any concerned parents, Mr Hodkinson said the school is purchasing software which allows teachers to call up students’ screens onto the main interactive board for instant viewing.