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Local

Better than a backpack

Anonymous donation nets Coal City schools an iPad

Coal City students utilize the district’s new iPad, which is a tablet computer with a touch screen. An anonymous donor recently gave the district the item for use in its special education classes.
Coal City students utilize the district’s new iPad, which is a tablet computer with a touch screen. An anonymous donor recently gave the district the item for use in its special education classes.

An anonymous donor recently gave the Coal City school district an iPad for use in its special education classes.

That donation, on top of a recent Coal City District 1 Foundation donation of money marked for the purchase of more iPads, puts the district in a good position to begin introducing educational applications and a new way of instruction and learning to district students, according to its Director of Business Services and Technology Jason Smith.

“The iPad has been called the backpack of the future,” Smith said. “It allows them access to textbooks, a calendar, documents they’re working on, teachers’ sites. . . It can give them access to all the things they need to be successful.”

An iPad is a tablet computer, smaller than a laptop computer, with a large touch screen. Owners can browse the internet and download applications programs, or “apps,” that have such uses as calculators, games, global positioning devices, maps, and even bird and plant identification software and more.

Schools use iPad apps for astronomy guides, geography games like Stack the States, constructing virtual molecules, 3-D cell simulations, math flashcards, alphabet phonics, graphing calculators, spelling games, viewing art, and more.

Smith said the anonymous donor specifically directed his gift of the iPad to the special education program after learning how beneficial smaller iPod Touches have been with the students.

“Research showing gains these kinds of devices can give to special needs students is really taking off,” Smith said. “The students have been very excited, and it’s been very well-received. It is already directly in the hands of the students.”

The foundation’s donation of approximately $6,000 for the purchase if iPads would have bought a dozen of the devices, but the recent release of the iPad2 dropped the price of the original tablet, and the district was able to purchase 15 of them for the same amount.

Smith said those iPads are being charged and registered right now, then the decision will be made as to what apps to download on them for classroom use.

“We put a lot of safeguards in place to make sure our students are safe on the internet,” he added. “The apps will be those approved for education. We can use them for math programs, research, reading textbooks online, and many other uses. It has a huge potential.”

Smith said teachers have already been through an iPad pilot program to show them how they can utilize it as a tool in their classrooms. The devices are likely to be placed in the intermediate school on a mobile iPad cart that can be checked out and used in the classrooms that want them.

Smith said that conventional teaching tools are great, but the reality, he said, is that most of the district’s students are already connected in some way, whether it’s through a cell phone, a home computer, iPods and iPads, or even video game systems.

“You can hand them almost anything, and they will master it. . . We need to provide them with the venue to get stuff that is meaningful educationally,” he said. “We also need to make sure we are competing in a way students will see as valuable. . . Technology is a learning tool that is very effective in their style of learning.”

Smith said the district could use more iPads in its classrooms and urged anyone who is upgrading their tablets to the iPad 2 to donate their old iPads to the school.

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