Shaler Area pupils to get iPads, more

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Shaler Area school directors have approved the purchase of 200 Apple TVs, 80 MacBook Pros and 330 iPads as part of the district's $312,429 Advancing Classroom Education program, which has a goal of providing an iPad for classroom.

Bryan O'Black, director of curriculum and technology, said the long-term goal of the program is for all students to learn how to use electronic devices to advance their learning.

Even though the program will be expensive to implement, Mr. O'Black said, paper use and the expense of repairs on the district's existing laptops and desktops would be reduced. In addition, all students in all grade levels and with all learning abilities can benefit from using the iPads. Teachers, too, can use the iPads as another professional development tool.

The ultimate goal, Mr. O'Black said, is raising academic standards by engaging students in their own education and developing critical thinking.

The Advancing Classroom Education program will add to the district's IKS Titan interactive learning simulator, recently made available at Shaler Area Elementary School with an $80,000 grant from the Grable Foundation.

The simulator is the result of a partnership between the district and Dream Flight Adventures, a creative education technology firm. The simulator uses computer technology to give students in grades 4-6 the opportunity to virtually explore space, relive historyand more in the classroom.

Kara Eckert, assistant to the superintendent for curriculum and instruction, said the technology upgrades are part of the district's goal of reducing spending on textbooks through the use of electronic reading devices.

Last year, Apple was brought in as an educational consultant and in January, 30 teachers were supplied with iPads as a pilot program.

Ms. Eckert said most classes have laptops and other technology, but Advancing Classroom Education program "inspires our students to be learners."

Now that the project has been approved, Ms. Eckert said, 30 more teachers will receive iPads and professional training. The purchase of the Apple devices will be completed this month, and professional development and classroom preparation will take place over the summer.

Future purchases will be funded by savings on textbook purchases and various grants, she said.

As one example, the parent-teacher organization at Marzolf Primary School has raised money to purchase 30 iPad minis for its students.

Before the unanimous vote, board members were told of contingency plans for protection, repair and replacement of equipment as well as expanded uses for the iPads in the future.

Corrections, posted May 31, 2013: The number of MacBook Pro computers being purchased has been corrected. Also, Bryan O'Black title was fixed along with some additions editing changes, reflecting that classrooms and teachers will receive the devices.

education - neigh_north

Rita Michel, freelance writer: suburbanliving@post-gazette.com. First Published May 23, 2013 6:00 AM


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