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Long Beach school teaching algebra with iPads

September 8, 2010 12:05:23 AM PDT
When a class of eighth-grade algebra students walked into class Wednesday morning at Washington Middle School in Long Beach, they knew something was up.What they didn't know is that a handful of people in suits would start handing out iPads.

The Long Beach school was chosen to be one of just 11 in California to be part of a pilot program to use the tablet computers instead of textbooks.

"You're a part of history," said Bonnie Reiss, the California Secretary of Education. "You're part of an experiment to show and learn how to use the digital age to increase your ability to learn."

Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company donated 152 of the $700 iPads to the Long Beach Unified School District.

The textbook publisher created an Algebra application that runs on the Apple handhelds. It allows the students to not only read the usual lessons found in books, but also record notes and watch instructive movies to further explain problems.

"The students use it and interact with it," said Prof. Edward Burger, the author of the algebra application that they will use. "They can actually input their answers and get feedback. They can watch video. They can work things out right there live."

So what do the kids think?

"It will help our students more to get involved in their homework," said student Samuel Rosales. "Since they see technology, they're going to think it's fun."

One concern is what will happen when a student drops the iPad.

"What's amazing is, with these shock-absorbent covers, it actually lasts," Burger said. "One of my colleagues said she dropped it on her floor several times and it turned on."

But will they turn on the students here? School districts around the country will be watching to see if hi-tech will equal high grades.

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