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Teachers reflect on technology in the classroom

TGS has implemented a 3:1 program: three technological devices for each individual student. In this case, the three pieces of technology are an iPhone, iPad and MacBook Pro. Students at TGS are encouraged to keep these devices powered on and available during class.

Each TGS teacher has his or her own preference for integrating these devices into their coursework. They decide which device to use when, and how it helps to enhance the learning experience. For example, in Sherry Zhang’s Mandarin class, iPads are used for practicing character drawing, and iPhones help students look up and translate new vocabulary. In Global Studies class, teacher Andrew McLean requires students to deliver presentations using either their MacBooks or iPads. Teacher Dvora Geller requires that students have their iPads with them in Math class, as the course’s textbook is completely paperless. It also serves as a way to access information quickly. She notes, “[the iPad] is a great tool for research…without everyone needing their computers open.”

As with most new tools, there is a learning curve. “You need to work with the students and train them on how to use the tools. Let them help to figure out the best work flow…it makes them feel more invested,” Dvora says.  Also worth noting is the importance of user maintenance. Encouraging students fully charge their devices before class, and to regularly update their software, means less class time is wasted on troubleshooting technical problems.

A critic might say that these tools are nothing more than a distraction. But at TGS, that doesn’t seem to be the case. “I find that most of the time, most students are on task,” notes Dvora. Teachers note than when the students first received their iPads, iPhones and MacBooks, they spent a significant portion of their time surfing the web and downloading apps. However, they quickly settled into a routine and began to form good habits around their use of the technology. Students use their iPads to catch up on reading, MacBooks to complete their homework and iPhones to review assignments. Students understand that the technology in their hands is useful for both schoolwork and entertainment, and that fun and learning can often overlap.

Below you’ll find a short list of some of the apps used for classes at TGS:

  • Calculator
  • iAnnotate (paperless quizzes, read and take notes, share and send PDF files)
  • Jibbigo (voice translation)
  • My Chinese Library (Chinese phrasebook)
  • Noteshelf (note taking)
  • Penultimate (handwriting writing app – useful for Chinese characters and mathematical formulas)
  • The Elements (in-depth periodic table)

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