‘Any time, any where learning’
MONTGOMERY – Montgomery High School students couldn’t help but feel excited last week, for they each received a brand new i-Pad that will dramatically change the direction of learning in today’s education. “We are bringing education up to the 21st Century,” the students were told as Jeremy Rhoades, technology administrator handed them out assisted by Superintendent Daphne Ross and Linda Gutkowski, Director of Curriculum and Instruction.
The district approved a $224,000 contract with Apple, Inc. in June to purchase 250 I-Pads for all of the high school teachers and students. For the past few months the teachers have been training and developing their content on the mobile devices and will eventually write their own textbooks in order to engage students more into the learning process according to Superintendent Ross. Already students are using the i-Pads for special projects and research. Each teacher has their own website where assignments are posted. Whiteboards are also being used for further student interaction.
“This has been over a year in the making,” Ross said as she addressed the parents. “We are very excited to bring this technology to our Montgomery students, to promote education, and bring a vision for our young learners. Our students are not the same as in the past.” A shift in resources in the budget allowed the district to purchase the i-Pads. For example, electricity should go down as the need to plug in computers and laptop carts all day will be eliminated. After five years, it was time to upgrade anyway, and computers were replaced with the i-Pads.
The school district was experiencing a drop in enrollment over the past 12 years, but took notice that a larger transient population occurred over the past year, especially in the lower grades. 64 new students enrolled but 63 left. “It almost worked out evenly,” Ross explained. “Our scores are there but we are losing our students,” she added. “The Industrial Age is gone, but our schools have stayed the same,” Ross said. “If we don’t pay attention to this, we will lose our students.”
Research claims that students need to be more engaged. “Students should want to come to school and learn because it is truly meaningful to them.” Ross further explained that since the students have received the i-pods the attendance rate has also improved, showing much lower absentees. “Only two were absent the day after the students received them,” she said. “Our attendance rates have soarded.” Now students can do their research and come to class better prepared. “With this device, students can learn at their own levels,” assured Ross.
Holding 16 gigabytes each i-Pad comes with a charger and will hold a charge for up to ten hours. The challenge will be for the students to remember to charge them each night before coming to school.
“We are calling this the TEE-Initiative,” Ross explained. It means Transforming our Educational Environment. Montgomery is one of very few districts in the state to embrace this initiative. Ross and her team visited Biglerville School District in Adams County where each of their students received laptop computers as part of the “One-To-One” learning process. Some of the policies and guidelines for their usage were based on this visiting experience where the administrators saw minimal problems. Students were using the devices as if they were their own.
After last week’s assembly, an “Acceptable Use Policy” had to be signed by each parent and student, as the device is a privilege, not a right. A written handbook further explains that failure to comply by the agreement could result in the termination of having the i-Pad, stating it may be seized and searched at any time.
Even though he has mixed emotions on how other students will use the i-pads, Dominic Galanti, a senior, expressed he is very excited about having one. “Problematically, anything could go wrong, not knowing the limitations of the i-pad,” said Nick Buckle, another senior.
The i-pads will be part of school property and assigned and labeled to each high school student in grades 9 through 12. They will be collected at the end of the school year and given back, recharged and updated to those returning the following school year. The students are allowed to personalize them, but no photos or videos can be taken without permission. Back-ups will be done automatically and all of the I-pads came with protective covers. All students received Apple ID’s and the server will control e-mails, any applications they may download, and find anything illegal.
Hal Drick, a parent, said that he is somewhat reserved and will see how it goes. “I don’t think it is going to be as rosy a picture as they say, because we don’t have Wi-Fi at home,” he said but was pleased that the school district took the initiative to do this. Heather Snyder said she really liked it and her son, Blair couldn’t wait to get his as he held it up proudly to show his mom. Ross said that several parents came up to her after the program to thank the school and teachers for giving them this opportunity for better individualized instruction.
The handbooks also explained how to care for the device and every student is responsible to bring the i-Pad to school each day with all work completed. Rhoades said that the school will not accept responsibility for the loss of any software or documents deleted due to a reset. The sound must be muted during school hours and the device is to be used for academic purposes. “While inside the district, the i-Pads will fall under our Internet filter, so students will not be able to access inappropriate sites,” Rhoades said. The school is teaching “digital citizenship” and expect very few infractions. “The kids will personalize them. They don’t want to lose them.” These tools are important for communication, bringing inevitable, mass customized learning.
“This is beyond learning. This is truly using the resources and experts that exist for everybody,” said Ross. “It is anytime, anywhere learning.”