Springdale students iPad their grades

| Thursday, Feb. 17, 2011

Using an iPad in school easily beats using a pencil and paper, a group of students at Springdale Junior-Senior High School said.

"It's just more fun," said eighth-grader Zach Acheson of Cheswick, who uses an iPad to help improve his reading skills.

"We love electronics," said classmate Tarin Mock of Harmar. "The iPad lets us go at our own pace. And it's better than looking at a book or packet" of reading materials.

Toni Saul, a reading specialist in the Allegheny Valley School District who teaches a reading intervention course for eighth-graders, said those are the comments she wants to hear.

"I think the motivational aspect of this is the biggest thing," Saul said. "This gives us another way to reach the students in a way that's meaningful to them.

"They're really engaged in this."

Allegheny Valley started working with iPads in the classroom earlier this year. The district spent about $17,000 in grant money on 23 of the devices and the hardware needed to support them, district officials said.

The district's program initially started with special education students but has expanded to all students in every grade level.

Other school districts in the Alle-Kiski Valley are using iPads in the classroom or plan to start using them next school year.

Deer Lakes School District plans to spend $200,000 on iPads for every sixth-grader in the district. The goal is to have every middle school student using the device in class eventually, said Angelo Furiga, district technology director.

Furiga said next year's sixth-graders would be the first to get the devices, if the school board approves the plan.

Bonnie Berzonski, Fox Chapel Area School District spokeswoman, said her district started using iPads in spring 2010. The district has more than 100 of them, she said. They're used mainly to help special needs students.

"The iPad has opened doors for communication that didn't exist before," Berzonski said.

Tina Kaczor, Allegheny Valley School District technology specialist, said "apps" -- computer applications -- available on the iPad are making it possible for nonverbal students to communicate.

Dan Swoger, the district's special education administrative assistant, said the technology makes it possible for teachers to track students' answers to questions in the classroom. The immediate feedback lets the teachers know which aspects of the lesson they need to review, he said.

Several of the students in Saul's class said they have iPads of their own or plan to buy one.

"I have an iPad and a laptop," eighth-grader Seth Pahlman said. "I use the iPad more. It's just easier to use."

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