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Schools

Introducing iPads

The Manhasset school district purchased its first iPads three years ago and now owns 57, allocating 45 to staff members and 12 to students, according to Coordinator of Instructional Technology and Libraries Sean Adcroft.

The district initially purchased the Apple technology in response to the Special Education Department’s interest in its associated applications, Adcroft said, noting that many such teachers use iPads directly with students.

Allison Rushforth, executive director of Special Education and Pupil Personnel Services, said the iPads help teachers meet students’ needs, as specified in their Individualized Education Programs. For example, those requiring large print text can photograph written documents with the iPad’s camera, and then enlarge them to desired sizes. Others, with difficulties communicating verbally, turn to iPad applications such as TouchChat and Proloquo2Go to select words and phrases, and then choose voices that will speak them aloud.

Rushforth said iPads are also useful in whole-class activities, such as pre- or re-teaching elements of curriculums.

Twenty-eight of the district’s iPads are dedicated to special education teachers and students, Rushforth said, and she hopes to procure 10 more with this year’s Individuals with Disabilities Education Act grant money.

Still, iPads are not the only elements of portable technology embedded into Manhasset students’ schooldays. Forty-five netbooks exist within special education classrooms at the secondary level, Rushforth said, with a handful reserved for individual student use and others available for teachers to sign out.

Additionally, some Manhasset educators make use of their personal equipment to engage students and facilitate learning.

Munsey Park band teacher David Van Boxel brings his own iPad – and iPhone – to fifth and sixth grade instrumental lessons. He regularly incorporates downloadable tuners and metronomes, and sometimes run the SmartMusic application to highlight students’ accuracies and errors by recording and interpreting their playing, then comparing it to the sheet music.

Van Boxel noted that interacting with computer applications can be fun, and therefore motivational, but reserves SmartMusic and the like for “special treats.”

“You see people on their phones all the time and almost not interacting with people anymore, [and] I think it’s more important to hear feedback from a person rather than a machine that tells you [that] you missed a note,” he said, adding that this interaction breeds social development.

“There’s a way that you offer corrective criticism as an educator, and I think that’s part of the process, teaching kids to receive and also give corrective feedback to each other.”

Although Van Boxel is not willing to forgo personal connections in the name of technology, he acknowledged that the Manhasset district recognizes devices and their related applications as tools to enhance the learning process.

Still, neighboring school districts, such as Great Neck Public Schools, are demonstrating their commitments to technology with intensified expansions of iPad fleets. District Technology Director Marc Epstein said Great Neck is in its third year of incorporating the equipment into instructional programs, and the district supply has reached approximately 800.

Each school library or computer center has iPads set aside for teachers to borrow, Epstein said, and members of every secondary school department share one or two.

Epstein said Great Neck’s alternative high school – the 50-student, 7-teacher Village School – offers one-to-one iPad initiatives, having switched from one-to-one laptop arrangements two years ago. The district’s largest iPad initiative exists within its middle schools, however, which collectively utilize 180 devices in one-to-one programs.

Epstein envisions such programs expanding as the years go on. “We try to seamlessly integrate technology into all aspects of instruction and learning, and we believe a computing device like the iPad for every secondary school student is inevitable,” he said, noting that Great Neck’s intervallic approach allows teachers to become comfortable with the equipment and its applications.

“We probably have more iPads than most of our neighboring districts, but not as much as some that have gone ahead and rolled out grade levels of iPads at a time.”

Roslyn Public Schools is one of the first that comes to Epstein’s mind. Roslyn Superintendent Dan Brenner is dedicated to creating a paperless high school, in which iPads serve as both “communication devices and production instruments.”

The district began this initiative in 2010, and three years later, approximately 1,100 iPads – one for each teacher and student – circulate throughout the high school.

Brenner said these iPads facilitate the traditional sending, receiving and marking of assignments, and offer creative outlets through applications like iBooks Author and iMovie.

The district redistributes graduated seniors’ iPads throughout its elementary schools, Brenner said, and spends approximately $200,000 per year to supply members of the incoming high school class with new iPads of their own.

 Although the total sounds pricy, Brenner maintains that it represents a reallocation of funds, rather than additional spending. The district spends less on making photocopies and updating computer labs, the latter now converted into regular classroom spaces.

Roslyn Public Schools does not plan to purchase any additional technology that is “quite [as] revolutionary” in the near future, Brenner said. Administrators are, however, considering implementing flipped classrooms – with lectures presented in online videos, and class time reserved for personalized help and hands-on practice. The Manhasset school district already offers one completely flipped classroom, along with other hybrid versions.