Lisa Green wants to help her students think beyond the walls of their classroom at James Sales Elementary School. On Tuesday, she got a little help from Apple Inc.
The 485 students at the high-poverty school, part of the Franklin Pierce School District in Parkland, received new iPads during a celebration that kicked off with an all-school assembly.
As part of the federal Connect ED initiative launched in 2013, Apple, Microsoft and other tech companies have pledged millions of dollars to help get kids across the country plugged in to digital learning. To qualify, schools must register at least a 96 percent free-and-reduced price lunch rate, a widely used gauge of student poverty.
More than two dozen employees from area Apple retail stores helped form a human tunnel to lead kids into the assembly. Afterward, they fanned out to classrooms to help students set up their new devices.
“You all have your own iPad,” explained second-grade teacher Sophia Stover. “It has your name on the back. You don’t need to use or borrow anyone else’s.”
That’s known as one-to-one technology, in education parlance. Or, as Franklin Pierce Superintendent Frank Hewins puts it, “one-to-world.”
Having technology at their fingertips will help her students expand their world, Green said.
“It brings imagination and creativity to their learning,” she said.
You all have your own iPad. You don’t need to use or borrow anyone else’s.
James Sales teacher Sophia Stover
Already Tuesday morning, students were learning to use some of the device’s built-in tools. They photographed themselves with the iPads, then learned how to load their selfies onto their devices as their home screens. The technique provides an instant answer to the question “Whose iPad is this?”
The Apple grant comes with a menu of educational applications for students and teachers to use. Teachers also received iPads and Macintosh laptops, and every classroom has an Apple TV projector system that allows teachers to demonstrate step-by-step instructions for students.
Teachers got their devices in the spring, and more importantly, Apple also provided training so they could hit the ground running once the kids had their hands on the iPads. Training began last school year and will continue through March, Principal Brandy Nelson said.
She noted that while the iPads are designed to engage students and enhance learning, “they will never replace a teacher.” And the school’s shelves are still stocked with books.
“We’re focusing on how we can make learning more engaging and bring them new experiences,” Nelson said.
Already on Tuesday, students were making plans for what they hope to accomplish with the new technology.
Fourth-grader Damario Welch said he wants to use his iPad to learn more about history. Classmate Tony Jimenez-Sanchez can’t wait to discover maps to learn the locations of volcanoes in Mexico, where members of his extended family are from.
“I’m looking forward to reading on my iPad, doing math and learning,” added fourth-grader Maliam Jako.
For Stover’s second-graders, learning iPad etiquette was important. She advised them to carry the device with two hands close to their body, with the case shut.
“Hug it and love it,” she told students, as they practiced the maneuvers.
James Sales is one of 114 schools across the country benefiting from the Apple effort
Stover explained to students that they will use their iPads to visit sites together. While there are technology-based safety nets installed to keep students from stumbling into inappropriate online territory, Stover gave kids extra advice.
“If you are not sure if something is OK, or kind, or safe, just ask,” she told them.
For now, the iPads will stay at school. But as students become more comfortable using them, they will be able to take them home to do school work.
Apple has pledged $100 million toward the Connect ED effort, which includes not only the devices for students, but also the Macintosh computers and iPads for teachers.
The company provides the WiFi infrastructure needed to get a whole school connected, along with the Apple TV and projector system.
Franklin Pierce is not the first Pierce County school district to experiment with one-on-one technology for kids.
The Bethel School District spent more than $2 million last school year to begin phasing in iPads for all students. Most of the funding came from a district technology levy. This year, Bethel has distributed 14,000 iPads to all of its high school and middle school students.
Franklin Pierce officials estimate the total donation at James Sales is worth at least $1 million. The district has a technology levy, due to expire in 2018, that pays for efforts across the school district.
But Hewins said the levy can’t come close to providing the kind of infrastructure and one-on-one connectivity that James Sales will gain as a result of the grant.
The school is one of 114 across the country benefiting from the Apple effort, which has pledged $100 million to 114 schools in the United States. James Sales is one of five schools in Washington state to benefit from the Apple donation.
Hewins told students he hoped they would remember Tuesday as a milestone in their learning.
“You are going to think about this 30 years from now and remember that it all started back at James Sales Elementary,” he said.