iPads in Middle School

Peter Sommer, Head of School
The iPad is the hottest tool to be carrying around. And beginning today, Middle School students at the Cambridge Friends School will be carrying them around in their classrooms. Every sixth-, seventh-, and eighth-grade student will be armed with an iPad, creating an environment a world away from the occasional use of laptop carts and providing the potential for seamless integration of technology and classroom teaching and learning.
Thanks to last year's gift from alumni parents Bill and Elissa Warner and a new generous gift from a current CFS family, the Middle School teachers and students will have 81 iPads to support and enrich their studies. Students will use the iPads as a tool to research, manage, store, and present information. They will analyze and share data. The iPads will allow students to access, manipulate, and create audio, visual, numerical, and text information. Applications will help enhance core content, while promoting active engaging learning in the classroom.
A sixth-grade student won't finish high school until 2017, by which point, who knows what technology will be commonplace? What we do know is that our children will need to possess new essential skills. A key one is connecting existing facts and remixing them into something new. We don't want students to regurgitate the information we present; we want them to invent new ways of putting facts together. Besides invention and innovation, students will need to demonstrate problem solving, creative and critical thinking, leadership and collaboration, and global awareness and communication. Students who exhibit these skills are empowered to take control of their own learning. They are creators, not simply absorbers.
No one knows this better than our talented Middle School faculty. It is they, not the technologies, who will guide the students into their futures. Students should use whatever tools enable them to best learn. Schools that use technology thoughtfully can better equip students with these essential skills. For many of us who have been teaching for a while, the use of digital tools is a scary notion. But to most of our students, this is the only world they have ever known. Our children do not know what it is like not to be digital. Many of the things that seem like magic to those of us who have been around for a while, to our students are just an expected part of the way the world works.
If we accept the premise that this new digital world is worth making an integral part of our classrooms, then utilizing iPads, under the guidance of skilled teachers, makes enormous sense. It is most fitting that on the day CFS held a parade through Cambridge to celebrate the birth of our school in the middle of the twentieth century, we are introducing a twenty-first century learning tool.
I eagerly look forward to discussing the progress of our middle school iPad project with you. I bet that the kids can't wait to speak with you about it either!
Educating independent thinkers for over 55 years in grades PK-8