iPads as educational tool will be Launched in Indian Schools

BANGALORE: Shivakumar, principal of Delhi Public School, Surat, was fascinated by the educational apps on the App Store which matched his school's curriculum. And soon he started encouraging his teachers to use iPads for research. 

"While teaching the parts of the body, we use an app where the visual body is displayed. Curious students were allowed to tear down the ribs with this app, see what each rib is made up of and rearrange them back. This form of teaching has a greater impact on students who understand the concepts better than those who learn their subjects by rote," he says. 

Beginning this academic year, many schools across India will be formally including iPads as an educational tool for students. It has already started in a phased manner in schools like Delhi Public School, Surat, where over 600 students from kindergarten to Class 2 have started working on iPads. 

In many others, like the Canadian International School, Bangalore, all the students from classes 8 to 12 have been asked to bring their own iPads when they start the academic year. And at schools under the Universal Educational Group, over 20,000 students have already been given access to iPads. 

Using iPads as an educational tool is not new. But the scale of adoption will be going up this academic year, mainly because of the efforts of tech-savvy school principals. "All 200 teachers at his school were provided individual iPads which they connect to TV sets provided in individual classrooms," says Shivakumar. 

For students who wanted to do practical worksheets, an iPad lab was opened where they could spend some time. Worksheets based on specific topics are downloaded from the App Store and given to students to solve, says Shivakumar. 

"For instance, if algebra is taught, a number of fun games related to it are downloaded and students work on it during their spare time," he says. 

To take the concept home, the school encouraged parents to be part of their 'iPads at home' programme wherein they were asked to assist children with their project work and studies by using iPads at home. "Of the 1,200 students in the primary classes, 600 parents use iPads to help their children in their studies," he says. 

Those parents who don't have iPads can use the traditional worksheets to help their children. While it is still an optional tool at Delhi Public School, Surat, at others like the Universal Educational Group, iPads have already become part of the curriculum. A 60-member tech team is initiating the group's 20,000 students spread across different schools in Maharashtra and the UAE on iPad use. 

Each child at these schools is given access for 20 minutes a day to use iPads. "While students from nursery to class 2 are taught with the help of iPod Touch, all students from Class 3 are given access to iPads," says Jesus SM Lall, Chairman & CEO, Universal Education Group. 

"We had piloted the project in 2009 and it has been implemented full scale," he says. "We give them limited access to iPads because we don't want to replace the traditional style of teaching," says Lall. The group's technology team and teachers have compiled an entire library of apps under various subject categories to be used by each class. "This includes everything from alphabet to pictures to stories to rhymes," says Lall. 

Another tech-savvy principal, Avnita Bir of RN Podar School (affiliated to the CBSE board), Mumbai, is now allowing her students to bring iPads to school if they want to. She finds it of particular help to CBSE students who, unlike other educational boards, have to score marks based on a continuous assessment pattern. "Students have to thoroughly understand the concept, if they have to answer the questions," she explains. 

A pilot study on the use of iPads was conducted at her school for class 7. What interested her was the fact that the class created his/her own personalized content when they were given a topic to work on with the help of iPads. "While teaching history, for instance, we ask the students to create cartoon strips or create a short video clip using their iPads on the subject they are learning," says Bir. 

"Very often, no two projects created by students are the same. Different aspects on the same subject are brought out. The end result is that the class creates its own learning content," she explains. Breathing life into content with the help of iPads has been the main focus of schools like the Canadian International School, Bangalore, where all the 200 to 250 students from classes 8-12 will start this academic year with iPads. 

"Textbooks are static. This is the reason why we encourage students to take photographs of flowers and trees in the neighborhood when we teach them aspects of plant life," says Melanie Kells, Dean of Studies, Canadian International School, Bangalore. 

"Once this is done, we ask them to upload these photographs on iPads and annotate the content. They are encouraged to do project work on iPads and then take printouts for the final submission," she says. 

"Teachers have been using this in a big way," she says. "They design the content to be taught with the iPads." "Students are able to create their own personalized content and are able to thoroughly understand the concepts," she says. Talking about the security issues involved, as students may tend to use the Net for the wrong reasons, Ms Kells says: "Measures are built within the iPads which identify certain words and immediately block them. In the primary classes, the students are given access to iPads only under a teacher's supervision."