The latest private-school perk

Sara Johnson | December 14, 2011 | Lifestyle Story City Life Tech World

Several Bay Area private schools pretty much announced to the world, “Aren’t we cool?” with a recent technology decision. Instead of buying a laptop for each student, they opted for the younger, cuter iPad. “They’re lighter, easier for students to carry, and they have no screen barrier between the students and teacher,” explains University High School director of technology Albert Boyle. Plus, they allow for the more interactive kind of learning that hip educators tout these days, and there are many educational apps that you can’t get or use on a Mac. San Francisco’s Drew School even used most of its photocopying budget in order to be able to afford them. Take a look at some of the more intriguing apps that may (or may not) make lessons more effective.

Shakespeare in Bits’s Romeo & Juliet: Kate Beckinsale and Martin Sheen make cameos in this interactive version of the freshman-lit staple. While flipping through pages, a student simply touches an Elizabethan English word to get the 21st-century definition. San Domenico School’s technology director, Christopher Sokolov, says the animation “brought the classic work to life.” We wonder if a play in any other form really would sound as sweet.

DataAnalysis: Gone for these schools are the days of the clunky $129 TI-83, the required graphing calculator for high school trig and calculus. This free app is For Dummies simple, allowing students to import computer spreadsheets rather than inputting formulas on their tiny, complicated calculator screens. Students can even save their work instead of losing it in the abyss of the TI-83.

Video Physics: The Honors and AP Physics C classes at University High School are jumping on board with this app, which allows students to diagram real-world motion captured on video. Instead of just reading about the theory of velocity, students can learn about it by clocking a baseball pitch. Perhaps the app can be used to predict
Muni bus arrivals, too.

ShowMe Interactive Whiteboard: Think of this one as a dry-erase board with your own portable teacher included. The app allows a teacher to record audio of spoken lessons and scribbled explanations, to be reviewed at the student’s leisure. Foreign-language teachers at Sacred Heart in Atherton are hoping to use it to conduct speaking assignments.

Words with Friends: This Scrabble-like game, created by Zynga and made famous by John Mayer (he tweeted about it), is the one extracurricular app that schools encourage. Drew history teacher Shane Carter suggested to a Zynga developer that the company add vocab bonus points to the game, but it didn’t bite.


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