Monroeville Rotary Club drops dictionary donations in favor of tablets
Third-graders at Gateway School District won't need to thumb through a dictionary to find a definition anymore.
The Rotary Club of Monroeville handed out 38 tablet computer devices to the district's 12 third-grade classrooms instead of the deluxe, picture-filled dictionaries it has traditionally given students for the last 10 years.
“As a group, you tend to find a trend where if it works last year, you stick with it,” said Dustin Helm, Rotary club president. “But with those dictionaries, how many actually use them again?”
Each Spring since 2008 the Rotary Club of Monroeville raised funds so it could donate dictionaries to each third-grader. But Helm, who was recently appointed as president of the club, wants to help the district reach a one-to-one technology program — a nationwide education initiative in which each student is given a portable device to access the internet and materials such as digital textbooks in the classroom and at home.
The district is well on its way to reaching that goal.
Last year the school board entered into a $1 million lease-to-purchase agreement with Apple that included 370 MacBook Pros, 700 iPad tablet computers, 19 charging station wall mounts and 690 3-foot lightning cables and repair plans.
At Evergreen Elementary, students in kindergarten through fourth grade have access to 60 MacBooks, 60 iPads and 30 Google Chromebooks, which are found in the school's computer lab. And both kindergarten classes have five iMac computers. There are 235 students enrolled at the school.
As soon as Rotary member LaNa Howard announced to 25 third-graders at Evergreen Elementary their class would get three Samsung Galaxy tablet computers, an excited gasp went through the room.
“Are there other ways to look up words other than using a dictionary?” Howard asked the students.
“You can use the internet!” one tech-savvy student proclaimed.
“Maybe we could use (the new tablets) to download math and reading games so you could learn there,” Aliya Rassiane said moments after she and her classmates received the gift from the Rotary.
Rassiane, who has her own tablet computer at home, said she prefers using digital technology for educational purposes over textbooks.
The school still uses textbooks, said Matthew Matteo, Evergreen's principal. But it is slowly transitioning to using digital versions.
“There's still a digital component so parents are able to access reading materials at home,” he said.
Nancy Bendorf, a 28-year teaching veteran and Rassiane's teacher, admits the students will most likely end up teaching her more about the gadgets. Nevertheless, she was pleasantly surprised by the gift.
“I think it's great. We need as much technology as we can get,” she said. “Students need to learn how to use the internet properly to learn. That's where we're going.”
Helm, with the Rotary, recognizes the trend and wants to make sure the club participates. The Rotary raised $4,000 for the devices this year because he said the club shares the district's one-to-one goal. He hopes to have devices in each third-grader's hand in five years.
“We thought, what can we do for teachers to expand their ability, and improve classroom activities during the days? There are multiple ways teachers and students can benefit. It's worth trying,” Helm said.
Dillon Carr is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach him at 412-871-2325 or firstname.lastname@example.org.