Ligonier school district embraces iPad initiative
By Nicole Chynoweth
Published: Wednesday, Aug. 14, 2013, 9:00 p.m.
When some Ligonier Valley School District faculty started learning more about B.Y.O.T., or “Bring Your Own Technology” trend in education last summer, an opportunity to provide a “robust, modern learning environment” arose, according to high school principal Tim Kantor.
“All these devices that come into the school and we throw them all away, and say OK here's your paper, pencil and textbook,” Kantor said. “That doesn't make sense. We need to start embracing this.”
But rather than merely inviting students' devices into the classroom, the school district is providing devices to students.
This October, Ligonier Valley will roll out its Apple iPad initiative at all four of its schools, giving every student in grades nine through 12 their own iPad and creating iPad labs at the elementary and middle schools.
“We decided that if we want them to have this, we need to provide it,” Kantor said.
Kantor said he and other faculty members visited other schools participating in similar programs to decide which direction to take. The iPad offered a wide breadth of opportunities for students and teachers in science, math, English, social studies and special education due to its variety of applications.
To purchase the devices, middle school principal David Steimer said the school utilized a portion of a $1 million education grant from the Richard King Mellon Foundation. Aside from regular wear and tear, students will be held liable for damage to the devices.
Steimer said every student in grades nine through 12 at the high school will be given an iPad to use throughout the year, with the exception of the summer months. They will use it in all of their classes, employing applications like Pages to create word documents and iMovie to create movies to express language arts activities. In science class, students will be able to synch lab equipment with various applications, creating graphs and processing data with the iPads. Elementary and middle school students will also use such applications in their classes.
“It's ongoing, limitless,” said assistant high school principal Christopher Theys of the device's educational abilities.
Aside from its obvious educational purposes, Theys believes the iPads will help students learn the responsibilities of having such a device, like remembering to charge it regularly.
Jesse Vella of In-Shore Technologies has helped advise faculty on how to implement the iPad program. He worked with Blairsville-Saltsburg on its iPad program, which Ligonier Valley used as a guide. After witnessing the device's impact in several classrooms, Vella sees the iPad as a great way to enhance teaching and learning.
“The biggest thing for me was when I saw a math teacher record her lessons to the point that if a student came in and didn't have her the previous day, she would draw on a virtual chalkboard and speak into the iPad and send it to the student in an email so they would have the lesson,” he said.
To prepare teachers for the program, the district held meetings and trainings throughout the year to introduce teachers to the device and its applications.
“Some are excited, anxious, a little apprehensive, but overall they know that this is where (education) is headed, and they have to get on board,” said instructional technology coach Janine Vallano.
Adapting to the updates in technology is key though for student success, Steimer said.
“A year or two from now, we might be taking about something totally different,” he said. “We have to set the students up for success to function as best they can in the world in which they live.”
Nicole Chynoweth is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 724-850-2862 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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