iBooks for Innovation underway in Arizona

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Students are participating in the second year of a pilot project called "iBooks for Innovation" in the Deer Valley (AZ) Unified School District in which the district's two newest schools are equipped with iBooks.

Over 230 fourth- through sixth-graders at two older schools in the district's poorest socioeconomic areas are participating in the project, which is championed by Deer Valley Superintendent Bill Hill as a way to level the academic-achievement playing field between rich and poor, according to a story in The Arizona Republic .

"The iBooks are lighter and less bulky than personal computers ... some educators regard the purse-size portable machines as the computer of choice," writes reporter Beverly Medlyn.

Even though teachers, administrators and students at Constitution and Village Meadows schools say the experiment has yielded positive results, a survey of the 43 students who completed the first year of the iBooks project produced inconclusive findings, district officials reported last month.

Data for the 43 iBook students and a control group were collected but didn't show valid results, Kit Wood, the district's director of evaluation and research, said. More-reliable results will be achieved in another study to be done at the end of this school year, with a larger group of participants and a better-matched control group, she said.

Alan Richardson, a parent, questions the fairness of providing iBook technology only to schools with poor families, particularly given the questionable results of the project's first year, the newspaper reports. Still, he said, the project is worth doing a second year. If results improve, it should be expanded to other schools, Richardson is reported as saying.

But the iBooks definitely have their defenders. Teacher Dan Smith said the iBooks have changed their teaching style. Traditional computer labs with individual workstations promote solitary work, but the wireless laptops encourage small-group collaborative learning, he said.

And Principal Billie Jeanne Walmer said iBooks foster relationships outside the classroom. Whereas the first-year pilot gave one iBook to each student in two classes, this year's model has several children sharing a laptop in several classes, she said. Walmer hopes to eventually have six to eight laptops in each classroom.

This story, "iBooks for Innovation underway in Arizona" was originally published by PCWorld.

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