Pencils are passé nowadays. The scribblings of the old number 2s have been replaced with the click click of computer keyboards and the silent touchscreen zooms of tablets. Upper-grade students at Nativity of Our Lord School in Orchard Park are among the students embracing technology in the classroom, as they add iPads to their basic equipment list.
On Sept. 6, their first day of class, the sixth-, seventh- and eighth-grade students at Nativity each received one of Apple’s hand-held tablet computers capable of Internet browsing, taking notes, and shooting photos and videos.
With many schools issuing personal computers to its students, Nativity principal Ruth Frost chose the iPad after attending a conference in Albany last October with Dr. Rosemary Henry, then superintendent of schools.
“We went to a workshop there on using iPads in school,” Frost explained. “From there we looked into different aspects, costs. We met with Father (Bernard Nowak, pastor of the school) and Liz Schanbacher (educational technology superintendent) helped. We decided we were going to do it.”
The teachers had inservices over the summer to prepare them for a new form of teaching. The teachers, themselves, will instruct students on iPad use, although many seem to already be familiar with the devices. A workshop for the parents will take place to teach them proper usage and how to block unwanted websites. Social networking, such as Facebook and Twitter, will not be allowed during school hours.
However, FaceTime, a program reminiscent of the videophones promised by “The Jetsons,” will be used in class to communicate with former religion teacher Gail Smith, who moved to China this summer. The program proved useful last year when a student took a leave of absence.
“Last year we had a student who had to go down to Costa Rica and our learning lab teacher, Liz Rosa, had an iPad. The child had an iPad. So they FaceTimed during her reading class, so she was right in the class with the kids,” said Frost.
Nativity is a tech savvy school, thanks to the parents. About 10 years ago Al Moyer, who had children at the school, brought the campus up to speed with the computer system, which has been upgraded with an expanded wireless network by Escape Wire Solutions.
“The teachers were thrilled to have iPads. They’re a tremendous resource,” said Michael Kerwin, Spanish and social studies teacher for the junior high kids.
Bishop Richard J. Malone attended Nativity’s first day of class to greet the students and welcome them back to class.
“This is part of a bishop’s work, but it doesn’t feel like work. This is easy duty, and I love it,” he said. “The work starts when I go back to the office and have to make tough decisions.”
The bishop uses an iPhone himself, and feels new technology should be used to further Catholic education.
“I’m thrilled we’re doing it,” he said. “We have to be able to have the very best in technology and all of that to be competitive with the other schools.”