Loyalsock’s 1:1 iPad initiative yielding positive results

Loyalsock Township School District’s 1:1 iPad initiative yielding positive results

“Prepare, engage, inspire.” These three words are said to exist as “cultural and procedural extensions” of Loyalsock Township High School’s vision, values and mission, which is to provide opportunities for as many types of students as possible, thus empowering students to uncover their true passions for learning and their futures.

One way the district enhances that vision is by providing funding for a multi-year lease program that allows about 1,000 students access to an iPad for school purposes. According to principal Matt Reitz, the devices are in the hands of every fifth- through 12th-grade student.

“Technology provides a lens for learning that traditional means does not quite do as well,” he said. “First, as digital natives, students are very savvy with technology, and iPads are similar to the personal devices many already have. iPads and the many apps that are available influence students’ ability to better organize, take notes, complete homework … study and complete a myriad of classroom- and home-based activities and assignments that would not easily occur without the use of an iPad.”

The district recently submitted an application to Apple in the hopes of attaining the distinction to become an Apple Distinguished School for the upcoming year. According to Apple, schools that are recognized in this way are “centers of leadership and educational excellence that demonstrate Apple’s vision for learning with technology.”

In an E-book submitted with the application, LTHS staff states that the 1:1 iPad initiative has galvanized the district’s ability to provide robust teaching and learning experiences across the school community.

“The notion of bringing a 1:1 Apple iPad initiative to LTHS was realized so that we could take our instruction to a whole new level of engagement with students,” it reads. “Using the SAMR (Substitution, Augmentation, Modification and Redefinition) model, faculty experienced collaborative professional development to merge content expertise and instructional practice with iPad functionality.”

The initiative initially was presented to high school faculty in 2013 by Gerald McLaughlin, superintendent, Reitz and Eric Gee, director of technology, who described a three-year development plan. Its implementation, however, was not without its setbacks and challenges, including criticism from some for setting such towering goals. Even so, Reitz said he and others feel strongly that the enactment of the use of iPads with students and teachers has gone well.

“We took our time and provided many professional development days each year for teachers to learn how and when to use the iPad technology within the structure of each course they teach and within lessons that they facilitate,” he said. “We have seen a large decrease in various consumables and purchase of textbooks, as many texts are now widely available in E-text form.”

As part of the professional development piece, Apple educators were brought in to provide guidance on apps like Keynote, Pages, Numbers, GarageBand and iMovie, while teachers also were placed into novice, intermediate and advanced groups so that each could begin employing the iPad and content dissemination in course management system Moodle at individual paces and levels.

Although a large percentage of students at LTHS already perform at high achievement levels, the use of iPads has allowed them to experience ” ‘deeper’ and more creative learning experiences with coursework through utilization of a multitude of apps and iPad functionality” that “help students at all achievement levels discover better ways of understanding and synthesizing new content and skills.”

A significant positive change, the E-book goes on to say, involves communication among students.

“Students use email on their device regularly and are able to directly communicate with teachers, other students, counselors, principals and various other individuals. Communicating formally and informally via email has provided them with a real-world vantage point in which email communication is still a vital tool that is still heavily used.”

The iPads also have allowed students to access content even when not in attendance, eliminating the setbacks illness or planned vacations can present.

In fact, more than 270 courses are currently hosted by Moodle, enhancing the school’s traditional methods of essential questions, differentiated instruction, assessment, collaborating and feedback.

In addition, Reitz said his district’s 1:1 iPad initiative reinforces the critical academic concept of STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) programs.

One example, he said, is in the field of science.

“Many schools’ science programs use Venier lab equipment — probes and various devices for measuring science-related concepts across biology, physics and chemistry,” he said. “These Venier devices plug into a student’s iPad and accurate data is recorded in various graphical forms directly on the iPad. This process, alone, mimics the sort of lab experiment that a student may experience at the post-secondary level when working in a lab in a given science course.”

Student Madelyn Reitz said having an iPad allowed her to better organize her work in honors and AP courses.

“Having an iPad also allowed me to be mobile with my work because if I was absent or just sick I could do my work anywhere without losing pace in my class and falling behind,” she said. “It also made me more efficient with the way that I do work and study and take notes because it just allowed me to do everything more quickly.”

Julianna Cruz felt that being able to study using online learning game Kahoot! allowed her to go beyond traditional studying with a partner by offering a competitive and confidence building option to prepare for tests. Vocabulary enhancer Membean increases a student’s ability to remember different words, she said.

“These words are more likely to show up on the SATs so it actually increases your SAT scores, so as much as kids may have complained about it, it actually helped us in the long run,” she said.