The student is Preston, a 10th grader who is quiet and introverted but pleasant to teachers and peers. Preston doesn’t hate school but sometimes he finds it monotonous. He doesn’t like to be the center of attention and prefers sitting in the back of a room alone or with his one or two close friends. The school is 1-to-1 with iPads. Preston knows that he goes to his social media sites, YouTube and ESPN on his iPad too much and that they distract him from his schoolwork.
Preston struggles somewhat with reading but does better in math and science. In English class, the students are reading To Kill a Mockingbird on the Kindle app on their iPads. Preston didn’t like To Kill a Mockingbird at first but is more interested in the story as he reads further into the book. It helps that the Kindle app includes an audio option so Preston can both read and listen to the story. In English and other classes, students do a lot of small group discussions and activities. Even though Preston may have input he could offer to his groups, he remains mostly quiet because he doesn’t feel at ease sharing his thoughts/opinions with others. Preston is rarely an active participant in small groups unless prompted by the teachers or peers. The teachers who observe and assess participation rarely encourage Preston to give his thoughts out loud, thinking that he can instead do this through other opportunities they assign using the iPads (i.e., blogs, online chats). In most of his classes, when students are asked to independently read or do an assignment, Preston usually first checks his email and social media accounts on the iPad, and then gets to the assignments if there is time. The teachers are usually working at their desks or assisting struggling students during this time.
Preston is proficient in math and science and can usually figure out concepts and problems with little assistance. Most times, instead of asking the teachers for help when struggling with a concept or problem, Preston will search for online tutorials that work through similar concepts and problems. Preston likes the challenge of figuring out problems on his own. The teachers have started to notice this and encourage Preston to do so.
Preston especially enjoys the ‘hands-on’ classes like Woods and Global Science. He likes to work with his hands, and he will admit that he likes the break from technology, too.
During Social Studies, the teacher tells the students they have ten minutes to reflect on the causes of the Great Depression and record their thoughts in a blog on their iPads. After this, the teacher pairs up students. Preston is paired with one of his closer friends, Ben. The teacher asks the partners in each group to compare their thoughts regarding the causes of the Great Depression and record a summary of their discussion in another entry on the blog. Even though Preston and Ben tend to be reluctant to share their thoughts with others, as friends, they feel safe to do this with each other. As a final step, the teacher chooses different partner groups to share their summaries with the class. Since Preston has had time to reflect on this topic and was also able to practice sharing his thoughts with Ben, Preston feels less intimidated to share the summary with the class when the teacher selects his group. Preston feels Social Studies class wasn’t so bad today.
Preston is excited to get to study hall. Several days ago, the school librarian asked Preston if he ever got the cracked screen on his iPhone repaired. Preston told the librarian that his mom bought him an iPhone screen repair kit and he was able to figure out how to repair the screen. Preston showed the librarian his iPhone and she was very impressed. The school librarian then privately talked to the school tech support person about Preston trying to repair the cracked screen of a school iPad. The tech support person ordered a repair kit and the librarian asked Preston if he would be willing to give the repair a try during study hall. The librarian knows that Preston spends a lot of time on social media and ESPN.com during his study halls. Preston gets started working on the iPad at the beginning of study hall, and reluctantly stops when he has to move on to his next class. Preston is anxious to work on the iPad again tomorrow during study hall. Preston is wondering if he should consider going to college for technology repair.
Preston’s last class of the day is Global Science. The class is completely project based where a small group of students work together to solve a question or problem related to local or global environmental issues. Preston’s group is studying energy efficient options for the local public library. On the previous day, Preston and Jared, another member of the group, used an infrared camera at the library to locate air leakage, moisture issues, and insulation irregularities. During today’s class, Preston and Jared are transferring the data from the infrared camera to a spreadsheet so they can analyze the information as part of the group’s energy audit for the library. The other members of the group are transferring data from gauges they used at the library to check for gas leaks and carbon monoxide. As the students transfer the data, there is a great deal of discussion, including Preston, at what they observed and what the data may mean. Preston eagerly volunteers to create the graphs using Microsoft Excel. The other students in the group also volunteer for other tasks so they are ready to present their energy audit and recommendations to the library board members at the end of the month. Preston’s group gets slightly off topic near the end of class as the discussion turns to green roofs. Preston surprises himself by asking the teacher in front of the other students if his group could investigate green roofs as part of their next Global Science project. The teacher smiles and says, "Absolutely."