Catholic school uses iPad as learning device

Holy Family Grade School teacher Krikor Kiladjian on Monday led his eighth-grade students through a traditional social studies lesson in a very non-traditional fashion. They took turns at the front of the classroom, plugging in their iPads and walking each other through charts depicting various geographic regions that were projected onto a pull-down screen.

Classmates followed along at their desks on their own devices.

“It has been working really well,” Kiladjian said of integrating the iPads into course work. “Even fairly mundane things like homework they are excited to do.”

After the Catholic school launched its iPad program at the start of the new academic year, all 61 of its seventh- and eighth-grade students now use the tablets on a daily basis. Conceived by Holy Family pastor Rev. Jim Bevacqua, and modeled after a similar effort at St. Genevieve Elementary School in Panorama City, school officials say they hope to expand it to lower grade levels in the near future.

“When we say we are preparing kids for high school, by the time that they move to ninth grade, they must have all the necessary technology research skills,” Holy Family Principal Fidela Suelto said. “How do we address that? We address that by getting what is new on the market.”

Families are responsible for covering the cost of the device, Suelto said. Some chose to buy the iPad from an Apple store, while others opted for a $650 educational package through the school that included a two-year warranty and two dozen iPad applications.

Holy Family also provided a rent-to-own option for families who could not make the purchase outright, Suelto said.

After some initial trepidation, the school’s parents have embraced the program, participating in strong numbers in iPad training sessions tailored specially for them, Suelto said. Students and parents sign a user policy that spells out the school’s goals for the technology, she added.

Downloading music and games are allowed, but can only be used with a teacher’s permission, or after school. The iPads are not taken out to the playground during recess or lunch, and students are responsible for charging them at home overnight.

Students said they discover new education apps on a daily basis, and estimated they are working on their iPads about 60% of the day.

“I like Tablet Journal,” said 12-year-old Paladini Renee, referring to an iPad application. “You can keep a bunch of different notebooks in one app, instead of having so many different notes. You can just open it up and start typing right away.”

The technology has meant a drastic reduction in paper use — students rarely turn in assignments in hard copy, using email instead.

“In religion, we do a religion journal,” said Amely Sijo, 13. “We go through the Bible on our app instead of having to go through the real Bible, it is kind of easier to do your homework that way.”

The rollout has not been without its hiccups. When the school’s wireless Internet connection only functioned on one half of the eighth-grade classroom, students had to crowd together to get a signal.

“Our whole class was filled on one side [with students] trying to get Internet connection,” Amely said.

And teachers cannot monitor every iPad every minute of class, meaning students must employ the self discipline to stay on task. Occasionally, they do catch each other playing games or listening to music, students said, but they added that they are pretty good about keeping one another in check.

“The iPad teaches you responsibility,” Gary Cruley, 13, said.

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