SF high school embraces digital learning

January 19, 2012 8:25:46 PM PST
Apple is working on replacing the old textbook with an electronic version using the iPad. It will be prettier, lighter and full of things you can't do on paper. Apple says it will revolutionize the textbook industry and the classroom. One school in San Francisco is using some of that technology to deliver lessons in a very 21st century way.

Apple executives announced the company will use the iPad to bring digital textbooks to students. The i-textbooks will be cheap -- $15 -- but iPads start at $499. The company didn't announce plans to discount or give any of those away. That worries school districts that couldn't afford to buy them.

"We would hate to see the digital divide get even deeper," We absolutely want our students, no matter their economic background to have access to the best learning technology that there is," San Francisco Unified School District spokesperson Gentle Blythe said.

One school is using an innovative approach to teaching using several electronic devices. At International High School in San Francisco, nearly 20 percent of lessons are delivered not in the classroom, but via podcasts by the teacher. The program is called iTunes University; it's used by many colleges.

Alexandra Luce uses her laptop to access her lessons. Others use computers or iPads, even an iPod Touch.

"You can pause it, you can rewind it and that's really great because if you missed anything, it's not like in the classroom where the teacher moves on you can stop and pause, that's really nice," Luce said.

"Research shows that in this case, when this happens kids learn better as oppose to being forced to listen to a teacher at the moment where it's not necessarily what they want to do," International High School spokesperson Joel Cohen said.

After they listen to the lesson, the work students would do at home, is instead done in the classroom.

"Students will tell you, 'I'm alone trying to do my math and I don't know how to start, I'm stuck,' now I am in the same situation but I am in the classroom, I have my classmates who can help me and the teacher is there," Cohen said.

The high school just started using that approach, so they have yet to measure the effects on student performance. It's new but International High School has been around for some time. In February, the school will celebrate 50 years in the Bay Area.