Despite chilling temperatures throughout the diocese, the spring semester officially began this week for students at Bishop Grimes Prep in East Syracuse. Seventh grade students at the school received a new tool for the classroom that is easier to carry and more fun to use than a textbook: a new iPad.
Bishop Grimes recently received 60 new Apple iPads, purchased with grant funding, which are being used in a technological pilot program the school is running this semester.
“We want to determine the value of students using an iPad as opposed to traditional textbooks and methods of research,” explained Marc Crouse, principal of Bishop Grimes. “We will be collecting feedback from parents, students and teachers throughout the next few weeks to determine if the effort we are putting into the program is worth the results we get out of it.”
The decision to distribute iPads to seventh grade students, as opposed to students in higher grades, was deliberate. “This group of students are already digital natives,” explained Crouse. “They are completely at home with technology because they have never known a world without it. [The iPads]will encourage interactive learning and will keep the students engaged.”
Crouse stated the iPad could have tremendous academic impact in subjects like social studies, English or science. Instead of seeing flat pictures in a textbook, students can watch videos on different topics, download novels, conduct research and create multimedia presentations.
“In the past, if a teacher wanted students to find out particular information, such as the date, time or place a historical event happened, the student would go home, research the question at the library and bring back the answer to class the following day. By then, the teacher more than likely was on a whole other subject. With iPads, students can find information in seconds and present it to the class, which will keep classroom discussions topical and focused,” stated Crouse.
Although most students who will receive iPads are already familiar with the technology, there will be a small training session once they receive their iPads.
“We always need to discuss Internet safety,” stated Crouse. “We do have internal filters to keep them from going to places they shouldn’t and we have blocked any material that may be deemed inappropriate. Should a student try and cross the line, they will lose the privilege to use the iPad and will have to go back to using regular text books again.”
In addition to students being trained, the pilot program also includes training for staff members. Recently teachers at Bishop Grimes received a two-part iPad training session.
“We want our teachers to be just as comfortable using the iPad as our students and understand what apps [applications] are available out there to help them,” said Crouse. “It’s important they understand we are giving our students a 21st-century type of education, but that doesn’t mean we have to lose the personal element. Students will still be expected to learn how to show respect, use good judgment and work well with others. The iPad doesn’t take away the role of the teacher: it enhances it, but no technology can ever replace the importance of the human connection between a teacher and a student.”
Although students will be allowed to take the iPad home during the school semester, each tablet must be returned to the school before the summer in order to give Crouse and his administrative team time to evaluate the success of the program and share the results.
“We will be looking to get feedback not just from the students on how they liked using the iPads, but feedback from parents and from our staff. We will be looking at what textbooks could be downloaded, which ones weren’t available and what apps were utilized the most.”
Once the research is completed, Crouse and his team can share it with other schools in the diocese and determine the next steps for Bishop Grimes’ students.
“We want our students to have a competitive edge in college,” stated Crouse, “and technology will play a strong role in maintaining that edge. If we didn’t try and give them access to new technology like iPads, we are doing them a disservice.”