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Steady current of events PHS social studies class uses iPads to stay up-to-date

Editor's note: This is the final story in a six-week series on the use of iPads at Perham High School.

The Perham High School social studies department has a steady stream of current information this year, thanks to the varying capabilities of the iPad.

In an interview, social studies teacher T.J. Super said that because of the information in iPad apps, websites and the online version of the textbook, discussions in the classroom have been stronger and the kids are more connected.

Especially when it comes to current events, the iPad allows the class to keep on top of news from around the world on a daily basis.

"For example, the day after the presidential elections, we were able to see how different parts of the world were reacting to the reelection of President Obama," Super said of his freshmen civics class.

The easiest way for Super to keep on top of the news is with an app called Newseum, which is a digital collection of newspapers from around the world. Using Newseum allows students to "explore those papers without having to search for each individual website for each newspaper."

Super said whatever is happening in the world is what will usually lead discussion in the classroom. There have been many times when a student raised a question and the class worked together to research the answer, without even having to leave their desks.

Another app Super uses often is one on the United States Constitution and laws. He said finding information within the constitution or a specific law book is a lot easier with electronic searching capabilities.

Super also uploads large documents for his class, documents he wouldn't have even considered sharing if he had to print one for each student.

One example of this was a 60-page court document for the case the kids are acting out in their mock trial.

Students were "able to see all the parts of the trial information, and highlight and make annotations" on their own version of the document on their iPads, Super said. That's something that wasn't possible in the past.

"Giving everyone access to this wasn't possible before, because printing that many documents wasn't feasible," he said.

Before they had the ability to scan a document into electronic format, teachers would print and distribute only the portion that students truly needed.

Giving each student access to all the documents in their entirety makes the mock trial more like a real court case, and also brings a deeper discussion to the classroom.

Though the iPad is used mostly for research in the social studies department, Super has discovered a game he allows in his classroom, something his students really like. Pocket Lawyer is a 20-minute educational game in which kids set up a law firm, match clients with lawyers and enforce their knowledge of legal rights and laws.

"There aren't a lot of good games out there," Super said, so when he finds one that helps students learn the judicial system, he's going to recommend it.

All in all, teachers and students alike rely on the steady stream of information from around the world, to make the classroom a stronger place to be.