Mon09012014

Schools

St. Francis iPad program exceeds expectations


Photo By: Ellie Van HOutte/Town Crier
Photo Ellie Van Houtte/Town Crier

St. Francis students use their iPads to take notes, make presentations and draw sketches during classes.

The days of bringing an apple for the teacher may be long gone, but every student at St. Francis High School does bring an Apple to class.

Each of the school’s 1,700 students this year received an Apple iPad touch-screen computer for use in the classroom.

Both students and teachers have embraced the school’s new 1:1 iPad program, according to St. Francis officials. Students use the iPads to take notes, make presentations and draw sketches. They use the built-in camera to determine velocity of a projectile, scan QR codes to reach websites and produce movies about the school’s historical figures.

Alex Bega and Matt Maguire – the school’s educational technologists – have helped the teachers and students transition from paper and pens to the automated tablets. Beyond providing their colleagues with training and resources, Bega and Maguire have assisted in developing a technology-centered curriculum by showing the teachers how they can implement lesson plans.

They have encouraged teachers to design assignments that encourage students to show their knowledge of a topic through a project – such as creating a movie or artwork – instead of relying on a multiple-choice test, for example, to gauge their understanding. While teachers are allowing students to be more creative with such assignments, traditional skills such as writing are still emphasized throughout the curriculum, Bega and Maguire said.

Both educational technologists have supported the teachers’ transition to tablets since summer, and they have been consulted for their expertise and asked to share their experiences. St. Francis officials said teachers and administrators from other schools have posed a variety of questions, ranging from which apps St. Francis uses to how students use the iPad.

“They want concrete examples of how they can improve the classroom experience,” Maguire said.

In their presentations, Bega and Maguire describe what they have learned over the course of the rollout. Paper use is down at St. Francis, according to school officials, and initial fears about a great number of iPads being lost or misused have not materialized. Teachers and students are learning from each other the best ways to use the apps and are discovering new tools and functions to improve learning.

“Teachers have been open to learning from students, and this fosters a sense of community and connection in the classroom,” Bega said.

In addition to supplying all students and teachers with a device, the school underwent a wireless network upgrade over the summer. Each classroom is outfitted with an Apple TV, enabling students and teachers to project their iPad projects on a screen.

The additional hardware has been worth it, school officials said. Anecdotal evidence indicates that the iPad program has yielded positive results.

Sophomores Bridget Foley, Kyle Kitagawa and Isabelle Pichay, working together at a table, said the iPad makes them more organized and efficient. They find they are more interested in what they are studying.

That level of engagement has not gone unnoticed by teachers like Cinthya Miranda-McIntosh, a Spanish instructor. In introducing her students to the writer of a Latin American comic strip, she asked her class to find other examples of his work. In the past, she would have done the research herself and presented it.

“This time, they got into it and were sharing their findings,” she said. “Students got so much more out of it.”

Maguire agreed that the community is excited about the program.

“Sometimes when you roll out a program, you start out strong, but you can also lose steam,” he said. “But there is still a buzz about it here. Everybody jumped into the program right away, and it’s been successful so far.”

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