San Francisco public schools are moving away from textbooks and toward technology one tablet at a time.
Following a successful pilot program this school year in which teachers at 12 middle schools received iPads for their classrooms as part of a $2.7 million donation from the Salesforce.com Foundation, the technology giant has pledged to double down on its investment to expand the initiative for the 2014-15 school year.
San Francisco Unified School District officials announced the increased funding Tuesday at an Autodesk event honoring the 31 math and science teachers who participated in the program by integrating instruction with the use of more than 1,200 iPads.
Next school year's initiative will expand to sixth through eighth grades at the district's eight K-8 schools, putting an additional 1,800 tablets into the classrooms of 50 more teachers, according to Baje Thiara, special assistant to the chief of staff with the Superintendent's Office.
“Last year, the foundation committed $2.7 million toward technology and technology infrastructure at SFUSD middle schools with a special fund set aside to increase [science, technology, engineering, math] opportunities,” Salesforce.com Foundation President Suzanne DiBianca said. “We look forward to doubling down on our investment and allowing SFUSD principals to drive innovation in schools.”
The program, in partnership with Mayor Ed Lee, is part of a greater SFUSD effort to increase the use of technology in schools, including implementing wireless Internet in every school within the next several years,” said Michele Dawson, the SFUSD's director of educational technology.
“Our goal within the next five years is to never buy another textbook,” Superintendent Richard Carranza said at Tuesday's event. While books are invaluable, he added, they do not keep students up to date on current events.
Carranza reaffirmed his support for technology at Tuesday night's Board of Education meeting during a presentation outlining how the district has and will continue to incorporate technology into the classrooms.
“Quite frankly, we're San Francisco — this is the DNA of our community,” Carranza said. “Our students live in an increasingly complex and interconnected world.”
Using iPads and other technology in classrooms helps students learn in more collaborative ways, specifically through various apps such as Edmodo, a Facebook-type app for teachers; Explain Everything, a “very flexible” movie-making app; and Nearpod, an interactive PowerPoint app, explained Uma Higuchi, who teaches seventh- and eighth-grade science at Roosevelt Middle School.
Higuchi even administers quizzes on iPads, which she says is easier for students, reduces the risk of cheating, and allows her to grade the quizzes faster.
“Engagement in general has been a lot higher,” said Anna Gin, a sixth-grade math and science teacher at James Denman Middle School, who has her students create videos showing how they solve math problems. “It allows for a lot more creativity.”