If you think the iPad is used only to play games and surf the internet, think again. It is actually an efficient and useful tool for both teachers and students.
For the third year, Form One to Form Three students at True Light Middle School are using school-owned iPads during lessons. It's part of the Education Bureau's pilot scheme on eLearning in Schools.
This new form of learning has aroused students' interest and made them more active; they are also more willing to learn. Students are divided into groups of two to four, gathering round the 9.7-inch screen to discuss, work and learn, using a variety of apps.
In English classes, students videotape their poetry and insert different kinds of media in their keynote presentations. In science classes, they use the iPads during experiments, such as taking the temperature of a candle flame or the carbon dioxide concentration in different places.
"I like going to school more" under e-learning, Form One student Chloe Chow Hang-lam said. Shekina Lam Yan-tung, another Form One student, said she learned many English words after she started to use iPad in class, because it's easier to look them up in the dictionary. By simply clicking the screen, students have easy access to how the words are pronounced and defined.
E-learning brings mobility and flexibility into the classroom, and is a good teaching tool as well. English teachers especially love it. When learning poems, students use the Popplet app as their "mind map" to do brainstorming and check rhyming words, instead of raising their hands to ask teachers every time.
Jane Yip, head of the English panel, said e-learning also develops creativity, as "students can use different forms to showcase [poetry], from video to cartoons".
Teachers visited other schools in Hong Kong and Singapore and attended workshops two years ago when e-learning first started, as they had little experience with iPads. Apple has conducted education-focused workshops and advised on teaching methods, but they are a bit too Westernised. So, True Light had to modify the content and discover suitable apps, said IT panel head, Henry Ha Chi-hung.
Now True Light teachers make use of the tablet's functions and accessories. It's among the first schools in Hong Kong to adapt Apple TV for teaching, as teachers can project things onto the big screen to explain certain points, and students can wirelessly show their work to the whole class. They bought a charge-and-sync cart to synchronise and charge 16 iPads at a time. (The school has 40.) Pages of apps are installed on the iPads, including apps to take notes and log data.
A few problems are still unsolved, though.
Using an iPad obviously improves 21st century skills - media literacy, creativity, communication and problem solving, for example. But Ha says teachers still don't know how to measure students' e-learning progress, something that is quite easy to do with "pen-and-paper" learning methods.
As a pilot school on e-learning, True Light is going to take the first step in BYOD - bring your own (iOS) device - as the school doesn't have enough resources to do e-learning on several platforms. Three-quarters of Form One students have been allowed by their parents to take part, including Joyce Cheung Chung-wah, who can't wait until her schoolbag gets lighter.
"I won't have to lug heavy textbooks around any more," Joyce said.
"I can just take photos of the pages."