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Anatomy of a lesson on the Amplify Tablet

by Susan Ohanian

Amplify bills itself as the All-in-one solution:

Amplify has developed the most innovative and comprehensive tablet-based solution available for Kâ12 education. We have designed a digital experience specially for teaching and learning and bundled high-quality services and support. With the Amplify Tablet System, itâs easy and affordable for districts to start or scale a 1:1 initiative.

NOTE: The article is by a first-year teacher and is "commissioned by Amplify." Ms. Starnes is part of an Amplify pilot program, for which the district pays $108,000 from its local technology budget. Part of that covers insurance for cracked or broken tablets. After this pilot, the district will decide if it wants outfit all of its students with tablets, which will cost a whole lot more.

Education Week reported that a more ambitious plan in Texas was scrapped:

In Texas, the 70,000-student Fort Bend Independent School District scrapped a 19-month old initiative known as iAchieve after a consultant found that "the program fell short of its mission due to a combination of unrealistic goals, insufficient planning and project management, lack of consistency with existing FBISD curriculum development standards, and poor contract management practices." A total of 6,300 iPads had been distributed to Fort Bend 2nd through 8th graders at a cost of $16 million.

The Digital Reader reported that in North Carolina, after finding that 10% of the Amplify tablets were broken in one month, they scrapped the program.

Guilford County Schools, a public school district that serves 71,000 students in and around Greensboro, NC, announced on their website on Friday that they had withdrawn all 15 thousand Amplify tablets that had been issued to students. The tablets were distributed as part of the PACE pilot program, and were funded by a $30 million grant from the Dept of Ed. Race to the Top-District program.

The Wall Street Journal reported on the Los Angeles snafu:

The Los Angeles Unified School District temporarily took back thousands of tablets from students at three high schools and required the devices to remain on-campus in all 30 schools where the effort had been rolled out. School board officials called a special meeting for Oct. 29 to assess the $50 million first phase of the program ahead of votes to fund the second and third phases.

And so on and so on.

By Shiloh Starnes

As an anatomy and physiology teacher, I'm often in the lab with my students performing dissections. It's the best way for them to really understand how organs work together. But I've learned that keeping my eye on 20 students who are all performing dissections at once can be a real challenge.

When we started using the Amplify Tablets in class, it occurred to me that there was an opportunity here. I could use the tablets to help show students visually how dissections are performed, and they could then use the tablets to collect the information they gathered and present it to the class. The tablets also could allow students to work independently and at their own pace, and could give me time to help individual students when needed.

So in class one day recently, we Googled "cow eye dissection" together. We quickly found 10-minute videos that explain it very well. The night before the actual dissection, I asked them to watch the video we picked out together so they would be familiar with the steps when they came in the next morning. Some of my kids don't have Wi-Fi at home, so they watched it as soon as they got into class.

The students were divided into groups, and each group member had a job: One was the dissecter, performing the actual procedure; one was the documenter, shooting photos and videos with the tablet; one was the researcher, looking up the functions of the cow eye structure and informing the group; and the fourth member of the team was the person who actually put everything together into a presentation--all the information, the videos and photos--so the team could share with the class. Each team member was able to use the Amplify Tablet to help do his or her job.

The students and I really enjoyed this project. The best part was that everyone had a role. Some of the students were grossed out by actually touching the specimen, and so they weren't the dissecters but were still very much a part of the process.

In using the Amplify Tablets, the students are starting to make this connection that they can look up information they need for assignments on their own. I think it's better for them to learn how to do this in the long run, rather than have them listen to me lecture for 45 minutes every day.

When I was in college, I learned that for every hour of a lecture you attend, you still have to spend three hours studying on your own. My success was dependent on me. I'm trying to get them to think that way so that when they get to college, they'll know how to figure things out themselves. The Amplify Tablet is helping me teach them that. They're enjoying familiarizing themselves with the tabletâs tools like Movie Studio and Quickoffice, and they're checking out Khan Academy videos for more information.

I recently assigned them an extra-credit project: Create a video that explains what the five senses are and how they work. They have to use the tools on the tablet and do the work completely on their own. Iâm so excited to see what they come up with.

Shiloh Starnes is a first-year teacher at Royse City High School in Texas.

This article is commissioned by Amplify Education Inc. The views expressed are the authorâs own and do not represent those of Amplify Education, Inc.

— Shiloh Starners





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