By Frank Sojak
LIGONIER — Ligonier Valley School District is embracing a new way to teach students.
Although the use of technology has been growing in schools over the years, Ligonier is taking a giant leap.
The district has been awarded a $1 million grant by the Richard King Mellon Foundation to purchase an iPad for each student. The program will be phased in over three years.
Superintendent Christine Oldham?said the iPad initiative
will help to increase student achievement by utilizing 21st century instructional tools.
Late last year, a number of teachers obtained grants to purchase a limited supply of iPads to use in the classroom, she said.
Under the Mellon grant, the school district will be able to provide freshmen through seniors with an iPad starting in October. Upon graduation, the seniors will pass the devices to pupils at both elementary schools. Over time, the district?will buy iPads for students in the middle school and any remaining elementary students.
Students will use the iPads during school and to complete their assignments at home, Oldham said.
Kelly Urbani, a first-grade teacher at Mellon Elementary who used the iPads last year, said the collaboration on a project between grade levels at the school was beyond expectations.
Her first-graders used the iPads to create an animal, and fifth-graders created the environment. The animal was placed in the habitat and pupils took a photo of their artwork.
Kristin Johnston, a fifth-grade teacher at Mellon, said using iPads last year has transformed the way that she teaches.
In working with Urbani’s class, each class was able to research a rainforest animal and use the information to create an electronic book.
Nathan Smith, a second-grader at Mellon, said he loved working with his fifth-grade friends?on the project.
Fifth-grader McKenna Rummel said making a book on the iPad was easier than creating one with paper and pencil.
High school teacher Roger Beitel said the use of technology no longer is going to be an “event” but a habit that will better prepare children for the 21st century.
Janine Vallano, Ligonier Valley’s technology integration coach, said the district sees the iPad as a way for teachers to differentiate classroom instruction more efficiently and enable students to access the curriculum and resources anytime, anywhere.
School board member Irma Hutchinson said: “The administration, staff and board are, once again, creating a learning environment for students to become productive members of society.”