Back to School – 300 iPads replace books at local school

Students at Blessed Trinity Catholic School in Ocala are saying goodbye to back pain from heavy book-bags as an iPad program is introduced into the curriculum.

In order to enhance student learning, starting this school year, which began August 12, over 250 middle school students have been issued personal iPads to be used in all classroom settings. The purpose is to stay current with the way students use technology continuously throughout the day and apply it to a learning environment.

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“It is important to keep up with how students use technology and their style of learning, especially when students power down once in the classroom,” said Jason Halstead, Principal of Blessed Trinity Catholic School, Ocala. “We look at it, (the iPads) as a tool to improve their learning and engagement in the classroom.”

The idea developed over time as teachers first received iPads to plan classroom lessons. To further their education, teachers attended iPad conventions in order to successfully integrate technology into all classrooms.

As the school year unfolds, students will experience the “Blended Learning Program.” This system will provide converted PDF versions of typical textbooks to be used on the student’s iPad. If a student wishes to work on projects at home when the iPad is no longer accessible, the student may log onto the iCloud account and continue studying. Eventually students will move to submitting assignments via the iPad. According to Halstead, it is an excellent way to avoid unnecessary loss of time in the classroom due to assignments left at home. It will also instill new responsibilities for all students.

“We want to help students become organized. Before, students had a folder for each class, a planner and textbooks to handle,” Halstead said. “If an item is lost or forgotten, it hinders learning. Having these devices will develop a great work flow and time management skills.”

Each iPad is given to a student as a loaner with a yearly registration fee. By the time the student graduates from middle school, the iPad will be paid off and the student will officially own their device. Elementary grade classes will also have access to the devices. Third through fifth grade classes will have 10 iPads per classroom, while Kindergarten, first and second graders will have 5.

Halstead said the hope is to also create easy access for students who want to learn more about their Catholic faith. Having the ability to explore different Catholic platforms online will intrigue the interest of all the youth.

“There are many Catholic websites and online videos available for the students. The iPads are also tools to keep students connected to their faith. They are as excited to learn as the teachers are to teach.”