The iPads’ green impact

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Jesuit students entering the Clark library are greeted both by a familiar sound— the click-clack of busy printers—and an unwelcome sight: stacks of unclaimed printed material perched in precarious towers beside the professional-grade copy machine.

In fall 2016, physics teacher and green team supervisor Ms. Jennifer Kuenz combined efforts with the Clark Library staff in a push to reduce the resource wastage so clearly represented by these paper towers.

The team’s brainchild—an initiative that called for the collection and cataloging of unclaimed printed materials— is one of the most recent and obvious examples of Jesuit’s commitment to being green.

“Jesuit’s commitment to being green…I would say that it stems from our mission of being good caretakers for the world and not only what were asked to do as a catholic institution, but a Jesuit institution,” said Dr. Carol Wyatt, Jesuit’s Vice Principal for Professional Development and Instructional Technology. “General Congregation 35, a gathering of Jesuits, asked the Jesuit community to preserve the world’s natural resources—so that’s what we try and do.”

Jesuit High School’s environmental consciousness permeates the daily lives of both its students and teachers— from the abundance of recycling bins peppered throughout campus, to the school’s relatively new 1-to-1 iPad program.

“The idea of saving money on text and saving paper were [definitely factors] in going 1-to-1, although not primary motivators,” Wyatt said.

With Canvas and other online routes through which textbooks can be read, assignments can be given, and notes can be taken, the iPads unarguably reduce Jesuit’s school-wide paper usage. However, with their lithium ion batteries and tough-to-recycle electronic bodies, does integrating iPads really reduce Jesuit’s carbon footprint as a whole?

“You’re forgetting about the 9100 plus textbooks that used to have to be manufactured out of paper, [out of] hundreds of pages, boxed into packaging, put onto trucks, and then brought to school, and then sold, and then recycled, or reused,” Wyatt said. “The lithium batteries are definitely an impact and these devices are an impact too… but we try hard to stretch them as far as we can.”

Wyatt points out that more than any notion of paper saving or green impact, the iPads were integrated at Jesuit for students to develop the technological skills necessary for higher education in the current age.

As a college preparatory school, Jesuit must ensure that students are gaining the skills they’ll need for university life and beyond, including an in depth knowledge of technology—whether that be through iPads or the larger, clunkier laptop carts the school provided before 2014.

“If it weren’t iPads, it would be laptops,” Wyatt said. “To a certain extent you need to have that technology available. If we didn’t have these [iPads], what would we have and what would [those devices’] impact[s] be?”

While the iPad program has certainly fulfilled its mandate of technologically educating students and encouraging their creativity with apps like iMovie and Keynote, it is irrefutable that the iPads have their downfalls in the classroom as well.

Finding a balance between using the iPads productively in class and having them become distractions has proved to be difficult indeed; some faculty members have opted to cut in class iPad usage altogether to keep the devices from distracting students.

Junior Katya Rott observes that the amount of time she gets to use her iPad in various classes has dramatically decreased from her freshman year, with teachers citing distraction as a major reason for nixing the devices in-class.

“We’re not allowed to use iPads in almost any theology or language class, or History,” Rott said. “I used my iPad in virtually every class freshman year.”

Theology teacher Mr. Charles Schreck developed his limited iPad usage policy, which allows students to take their tablets out only when he specifically invites them to do so, after noticing the number of students who seemed off task in class when he allowed free iPad usage.

“I don’t allow students to have the iPad out all the time,” Schreck said. “The first year, I did that so students could take notes but my experience was that the iPads become a distraction.”

As far as conservation goes, Schreck attempts to balance his class’s paper usage by giving occasional paper handouts in class and posting everything he requires students to do outside of class, online.

“I’ve tried to do more in terms of posting assignments, reading, handouts, worksheets on canvas- I would like to save paper, and I know that the iPad can help do that. I’m still trying to find a balance as to what works.”

Mr. Butcher, a chemistry and honors biology teacher who also chooses to limit iPad usage in his classroom, states that he believes students are more engaged in deep thought without the iPads— and that restricting their prevalence in the classroom has no real effect on Jesuit’s overall mission to be eco-friendly.

“I don’t think that limiting iPad usage in class affects Jesuit’s commitment to being green in any way,” Butcher said. “Paper is renewable, recyclable…we don’t use a lot of plastics, so I’d say not.”

Wyatt recently conducted a teacher survey to gauge the effectiveness of the 1-to-1 program, now that it has run steadily in classrooms for three years. She observes that, while initial responses have been positive overall, faculty members still seem to be trying to find a balance somewhere between letting iPads become a rampant distraction, and nixing them altogether.

“I think what teachers have found particularly useful in the iPad is easier communication with students [and] instant access to the internet,” Wyatt said. “The main detractor that the iPad has brought is distractions in class…some teachers have tried to combat that by saying ‘you can’t take notes on the iPad;’ I think overall the iPad program has been very successful, but we have a lot of work to do still to maximize the iPads in a way that they’re truly leveraging engaging learning.”

While the iPads have undeniable environmental impacts—both good and bad— they are certainly not the end-all-be-all of Jesuit’s green initiative. Their in-school integration, as Wyatt firmly expressed, is still very much a work in progress.

“So far, I think we’re on a good path [with the iPads],” Wyatt said. “I think you should never stop growing and learning. We still have a lot of work to do.”