As part of a semester-long pilot program to test new technology in the classroom, Charlotte Catholic High School has given select classes iPads and MacBooks for use in the classroom.
About three weeks ago, two junior U.S. History classes and one senior Discrete Math class began testing some of Apple's best-selling products to see which is the most effective teaching tool.
DavidsonNews.net, a member of the Charlotte Observer's Community News Network, reported Apple Inc. is working with Charlotte Catholic to create a program that can be used as an example for other districts nationwide. Apple wants school officials to see how the company's technology can help modernize education.
"They want to see it in action, so we decided to slowly begin to integrate it," said Assistant Principal Steve Carpenter.
Charlotte Catholic's pilot program is funded by the Mecklenburg Area Catholic Schools Education Foundation, made up of parents, friends, Catholic schools and alumni who donate money to projects that help advance educational missions in the Catholic schools.
With funding from the foundation, Charlotte Catholic bought 50 iPads, which start at $499 each, and 75 MacBooks, which start at $999 each.
U.S. History teacher Shawn Panther, whose classes are part of the pilot program, emphasized that the technology doesn't change what the students learn; it changes how they learn it. Now, the students are researching the topics themselves, rather than just listening to a lecture.
"I can put up a PowerPoint with the four causes of World War II, and the kids can copy them down and regurgitate them on the exam," said Panther. But with the iPads and MacBooks, "it's student-discovered learning. ....Our students at Charlotte Catholic are really good at memorizing facts, but we're trying to encourage critical thinking skills."
U.S. History teacher Dana Zimmer said she's seen a significant increase in student engagement. In their next unit, students will use the new technology to produce videos of Calvin Coolidge's life and 1920s magazines.
"Certain kids you have a hard time getting to do a worksheet," said Zimmer. "But they're used to (using) devices like this."
"That's all part of the training process," said Carpenter. "You teach the same information, it's just what (the students) are getting from it. ... It gives them more flexibility."
Based on the results from Charlotte Catholic's program, the proposed Christ the King Catholic High School, which hopes to open in August in Huntersville, will implement a similar program, according to reports from DavidsonNews.net.
Carpenter said that, ultimately, Charlotte Catholic would like the whole school to incorporate new technology in the classroom.
But to implement it on a large scale would require both equipment and professional training for teachers.
So at the end of this semester-long test, the teachers and administration will reevaluate and go from there.
"It's still in its infancy," said Carpenter. "You have to get the bugs out on a small scale."
Panther said his students haven't opened their textbooks since they got the iPads and MacBooks.
"It's kind of neat; we're talking of a day without textbooks," he said. "We haven't opened them (yet), and we don't have any plans to open the textbooks this semester."