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Springdale High students get iPads, Fitbit activity trackers

| Tuesday, Feb. 23, 2016, 12:09 a.m.
Dan Speicher | For The Tribune-Review
Ken Miller hands an Apple iPad to sophomore Scott Landis during the roll out of a new program that provides the students with Apple iPad's and Fitbit's at Springdale High School on Monday, Feb. 22, 2016.
Dan Speicher | For The Tribune-Review
Apple iPads fill tables at Springdale High School as freshman and sophomore students and their parents attend a workshop on a new technology program on Monday, Feb. 22, 2016.
Dan Speicher | For The Tribune-Review
Springdale High School principal Michele Welter talks to freshmen and sophomore students and their parents during the roll out of a new program that provides the students with Apple iPad's and Fitbit's at Springdale High School on Monday, Feb. 22, 2016.

Freshmen and sophomores at Springdale Junior-Senior High School are getting technology to enrich their minds and bodies. The students are getting iPads and Fitbits that will be theirs to use throughout the school year, in and out of school.

The iPads, Apple's brand of tablet computer, are part of a “one-to-one” technology program, approved by the school board in November. The Fitbits, which are activity trackers, are coming as part of a $20,000 grant Alle­gheny Valley School District received from the Allegheny Intermediate Unit.

The devices are being distributed during meetings with students and their parents. Sophomores are getting theirs this week; freshmen got them late last week.

While the plan is for the iPad program to grow into the upper grade levels, advancing with the students, the Fitbit program is just for the ninth- and 10th-graders.

Students will use the iPads — the iPad Air 2, to be precise — every day in their classes, Springdale Junior-Senior High School Principal Michele Welter said. They'll allow for 24/7, anytime, anywhere learning, she said.

“The goal is to have the majority of textbooks online versus the typical hard book they carry,” she said. “It goes along with the district's goals to promote STEM and STEAM goals.”

STEM stands for science, technology, engineering and math; the added “A” is for arts.

High school art teacher Doug Ward is on the district's one-to-one technology committee.

“It's pushing the kids into the 21st century,” he said. “A lot of schools and a lot of places are still teaching like it's paper and pencil. They aren't moving into the 21st century. We're taking that step. We're using a lot of pieces of technology with it.

“The world is changing to a more technology-based world. That's what we have to train the kids for,” Ward said.

The iPads are equipped with filtering and management software. The district has adopted policies governing their proper use.

Fitbits plug in

The iPad and Fitbit programs connect as the students will sync their Fitbits with their iPads to review their fitness data, said Brian Slezak, a health and physical education teacher.

The Fitbit makes fitness tangible by keeping track of activity, Slezak said.

“The big thing is, fitness is really hard to measure,” he said. “They're more likely to continue on with healthy habits if they can see their progress. When you see the progress, you're more likely to keep at it.”

Students will wear the devices, the Fitbit Flex, during physical education class and use the information generated to create personalized fitness programs for class, according to district spokeswoman Jan Zastawniak. Students will be encouraged to wear the Fitbits during and after school to promote wellness.

Students also will take part in challenges with their Fitbits, the first of which will go out in March, Slezak said. They'll follow a model from “Fittsburgh,” an organization working to make Pittsburgh a healthier place to live.

Students will be able to post on social media with the hashtag “#Fittsdale” to talk about their workouts and cheer each other on, Slezak said.

“The idea is to build a community around fitness in the high school,” he said.

The program at Springdale Junior-Senior High is the first of its kind for Fittsburgh, said its owner and founder, Anthony Vennare. The year-old program is renaming itself “Fitt” in March as it spreads to more cities.

“Our biggest thing was to support them in any way we can,” Vennare said. “We want to figure the model out and replicate it across Pittsburgh and the nation.”

Brian C. Rittmeyer is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach him at 724-226-4701 or brittmeyer@tribweb.com.

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