ST. MARYS – Beginning in the fall, the Elk County Catholic School System will incorporate iPads into their curriculum.
"As a school system, we've been at the forefront of technology and we feel that this will keep us at the forefront and move us forward. Society and technology are changing rapidly, the way our children interact is changing rapidly and after much search among our technology people and looking into the different instruments out there, we feel that the iPad is the best tool for teachers, faculty and students to use," said Fr. Michael Ferrick, president of the Elk County Catholic School System.
A total of 365 iPads will be utilized as part of the project. There will be 275 alloted for use at the St. Marys Catholic Middle School and Elk County Catholic High School, with each high school student and faculty member receiving a device. An additional 60 iPads are earmarked for faculty use at the elementary, middle and high schools, including a new 25-unit mobile lab at the middle school. Thirty iPads are currently in use at the St. Marys Catholic Elementary School.
The ECCSS board of directors recently approved the iPad initiative for the 2012-2013 school year. Each iPad costs approximately $500, with the entire project cost totaling over $190,000.
The project will be funded through a variety of sources, including some government funding which may be used for software applications, otherwise known as "apps."
According to Mary Agnes Marshall, ECCSS administration consultant and retired St. Marys Catholic Middle School principal, a significant portion of the funding is from private monies gifted to the school system which have been earmarked for technology.
She added that a tech fee is also being considered and would be incorporated above tuition costs. Marshall emphasized the exact amount of the fee has yet to be determined, but it would be a minimal amount if implemented.
"We're very excited about this and it shows our commitment to technology," Fr. Ferrick said. "It doesn't matter if our students are going right into college, into business or industry, technology is an important part and we want them to be prepared."
Although specific details of the program are still being worked out, procedures have been set in place restricting limits on downloading. A device policy, along with instruction on proper use and guidelines, will be presented to students at the beginning of the school year. Teachers and tech support staff will continue to guide and monitor student use of the iPads throughout the year.
"We want the technology to support our curricular goals, so the idea isn't that its technology driving the curriculum, it's that technology is supporting the curriculum that we have in place," said Marlene Stubber, ECCSS technology coordinator. "There's nowhere you can go in the world right now that's not immersed in technology and in all kinds of job fields. We want to make sure that our students are ready and able to meet the demands that are going to be put on them in college and in their careers."
Currently ECCHS is equipped with WiFi throughout the building, however an expansion of their network is in the works in order to accommodate coverage for the large number of devices.
With each high school student being issued an iPad, they will be permitted to take them home to work on homework and other projects.
Students are required to turn in their iPads for the summer, during which time those devices used by graduating seniors will be reformatted prior to being issued to incoming freshman.
Over the next five months, faculty and staff plan to continue solidifying all aspects of the project, including establishing various policies.
Pick up a copy of the Friday, April 13, 2012 edition of The Ridgway Record for more.