Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Cathedral High plans iPads for all

Cathedral Catholic High School plans to put iPads in the hands of every student and teacher next fall, becoming the first school in the region to do so.

Cathedral’s decision to embrace digital elearning began five years ago when officials initially looked into acquiring notebook computers for students. The school shifted its focus to Apple iPad tablets about a year ago and purchased 200 of the tablets to test out this year in classrooms to make teachers more familiar with the technology and figure out teaching methods they’ll employ.

Parents at the private parochial school will be paying a $350 technology fee that will cover the cost of renting an iPad as well as service and support for their student, said Principal Mike Deely. At the end of the contract period, students will have the option of buying the devices at a discounted price.

The iPads will be used by the school’s 1,700 students as well as 110 teachers and support staff.

On average, Cathedral parents typically spend between $800 to $1,000 buying textbooks every year. Deely said the textbook expense likely will be cut in half because teachers plan to substitute less-expensive digital textbooks for many texts they now use.

“We figured out a way we didn’t have to add to tuition,” Deely said. “Instead of $100 for science books, they will spend $14” for electronic versions.

Several schools in the region are introducing iPads and digital tablets in the classroom, giving students the tools to access the Internet and explore digital textbooks. But none have introduced the devices schoolwide as Cathedral is planning, said Greg Ottinger, director of online learning for the county Office of Education.

Deely said teachers have been very involved in preparing for iPads during the year, picking out books they no longer are going to use in their classroom and doing lessons on the devices with their classes.

Cathedral staff members also have talked frequently with their counterparts at a Catholic school in Santa Ana, Mater Dei High School, which issued iPads to its students a year ago.

There were concerns about students losing or damaging the devices, but that hasn’t been a problem.

“We’ve had only one iPad broken out of 200. It was an accident; he dropped it and the screen broke,” Deely said. “Most kids are pretty safe with them, because they care and they are really excited to use it.”

Using iPads in school may help increase student engagement with subjects because students can watch videos or create presentations on subjects they are learning about, said Matt Baier, an American government and economics teacher who has helped train teachers on technology at Cathedral.

Having the devices in class also will allow teachers to instruct students — many who already use such social media tools as Facebook and Twitter — on how to be good digital citizens and use technology appropriately, Baier said.

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