Liberty High School math teacher Kevin Giffhorn always has been an advocate for technology in the classroom — as far back as the mid-1990s, when he discovered up-and-coming Microsoft PowerPoint.
More than 15 years later, Giffhorn of Mount Airy is ready to take education to the next level with the launch of eNotebook (TM), a iPad application that enables students to download documents from class and write their own notes on them.
“I would love to see it taking the lead and shifting the 1950s paper-based classroom, into the 21st century digital classroom,” said Giffhorn, who also serves as an adjunct professor at McDaniel College in Westminster.
The idea for the app came to Giffhorn while daydreaming about his new iPad during a run early last year. After thinking about how interactive technology could be used on the Apple product for educational purposes, Giffhorn checked to see if there was a trademark purchased on eNotebook (TM). After failing to find one that night, he bought the rights for himself.
While developing the app, Giffhorn used elementary, middle and high school students as beta testers to offer feedback on improving useability.
“My experience as a teacher is you have to put your pride in check,” said Giffhorn, the 2011 Maryland Council of Teachers of Mathematics’ High School Teacher of the Year. “I like it this way, but the people using it will like it that way.”
One of the beta testers, Quinn Khouri, was a senior at Liberty High School in Sykesville when Giffhorn told his students about the program.
“I thought it was genius,” Khouri said. “We are moving more toward a tech-centered society and I thought the app — with so many schools and teachers moving toward tablets — could be a great idea.”
Now a freshman at Centenary College in Hackettstown, N.J., Khouri, an education major, has found the transition from high school to college easier than expected. Rather than taking notes by hand, he can download any electronic documents for his classes onto his iPad, then jot notes directly onto them using eNotebook (TM).
“The app is great because it can pull [Microsoft] Word documents, [Adobe] PDFs, and PowerPoint presentations,” he said.
While Giffhorn could not entice Carroll County Public Schools to try eNotebook, school districts in Texas, California and Virginia have expressed interest in learning more about it.
“I really see the iPad as being one of those tools taking us to the next level,” he said