Olivia Broadway laughs at an image on the iPad2 Maxwell Burns holds. (See photo gallery here.)
MERIDEN – Eighth-grade students at Our Lady of Mount Carmel gained a technological edge with the distribution of iPads, devices that give users access to hundreds of media apps at their fingertips, for the school year.
It was hard to tell who was more excited, the students or administrators. But as town, parish, school and archdiocesan school officials looked on, each of the 24 students was presented with an iPad2 during a Sept. 14 class with a tutorial on how to use, care for and dock the tablet device.
"Today marks two years of planning, fund-raising and working on our Internet infrastructure for the iPads that we purchased with funds raised from Meriden’s Nites in the City event," said school principal Norine McDermott. "We wanted to give our students the best in 21st-century skills. And this plan to update our technology is another step into that future."
The school organized 50 parents and staff to volunteer for the city-sponsored "Nites," which chooses a nonprofit organization to benefit from proceeds. The $15,000 the school received went to purchase 30 iPads and a Macintosh computer, to rewire the school for WiFi, to invest in applications and to train teachers.
The iPad device – which Apple Inc. describes as a platform for audiovisual media including books, magazines, movies, games, music and Web content – will be used by the students for research, note-taking, projects and homework. The portable devices complement the school’s existing computer lab.
"It’s a good way for us to advance with technology that we will be using in high school and college," said student Morgan Woodtke, "plus it makes our work a little easier."
Added classmate Lillian Morenz, "It’s a good way for us to stay current with 21st-century technology that we’ll be using in the future."
Dale R. Hoyt, superintendent of the archdiocesan Office of Catholic Schools, who was on hand to show his enthusiasm and support, told the students that they were tracking with Pope Benedict XVI, who sent his first tweet from an iPad this past June.
The devices will only be used in the classroom and docked at the school overnight. However, students can access some of the information on home computers.
Carolyn Daniels, the school’s coordinator of technology, who worked over the summer to prepare and download applications, emphasized that the iPad is a only tool for students.
"The learning is their job," she said.
Students will use applications for note-taking, Whiteboard sharing, integrating work and collaborating.
Benefits, Ms. Daniels said, include access to information at their fingertips; learning and growing with a tool that "they can control when and wherever they want"; and the ability to connect and collaborate with others.
"It’s intelligent, let’s them become more tech-savvy, and helps them think outside the box," she continued. "It’s a tool that challenges them, and increases responsibility for their own education and their love of learning.
"Plus, it’s fun," she said. "It makes education less static and more exciting. And it literally puts education in their hands."