Today’s Student, Tomorrow’s Technology

Remember your first day of school? When your backpack was crammed tightly with what felt like a 10-pound Math book, squashed between a 5-Star notebook, a ream of paper, a 20-pound Science book and a sack lunch – if you thought to bring it that morning.

Well, ladies and gentlemen, that reality is long gone. Today’s child now experiences an entirely different first day of school – one filled with tablet devices, cell phones and much less weight in his or her bookbag.

With the Information Age upon us, schools across the U.S., including many in Louisville, are incorporating technology in  the classroom to better teach youth raised in a tech-savvy world.

This Fall, St. Xavier High School will issue third generation Apple iPads to incoming freshmen and sophomores. During orientation, underclassmen will receive the Wi-Fi-only iPads, which will be monitored and controlled by the school through an Apple-approved server product called Casper. Internet usage off campus will not be monitored, nor controlled, by the school, but at parents’ discretion.

“The goal (of using iPads) was to come up with a way to animate instruction as much as possible, to engage students in active learning and to use the world in which they live to get them as excited about stuff that maybe they don’t like as much as other things,” St. X President Dr. Perry Sangalli said.

Families at St. X will pay an annual technology fee (currently $200) for the iPad, protective cover, insurance, some school-required apps and school technical support. Students will also be responsible for paying for their own apps and iBooks, which cost a bargain compared to the price of hardback Math and Science textbooks, Sangalli said.

“I’m in favor of the iPads because it is less to carry around than a bunch of books, and because everything you need is on one device instead of in many different books or papers,” said TaiJon Smith, an incoming sophomore at St. X. “That would make students better organized, which will most likely help the students get better grades.”

While TaiJon and many of his fellow classmates are excited about the new iPads, some have shown concern over paying the technology fee on top of private school tuition.

The technology fees will be a sort of investment, however. St. X students will keep the iPads throughout all four years of high school, and upon graduation, the iPad will become the property of the student.

Juniors and seniors are expected to receive their own iPads in the 2013-14 school year. But, if they currently own an iPad, tablet PC, laptop or other device, they’re permitted to bring it to class so long as it’s registered with the school and used appropriately.

Sangalli and faculty hope the iPad will increase student engagement and enhance individual learning styles. Research has suggested that the devices are capable of doing so. Textbook publisher Houghton Mifflin Harcourt performed a pilot study using an iPad text for Algebra 1 courses, and found that 20 percent more students scored “Proficient” or “Advanced” in subject comprehension when using a tablet as opposed to a paper textbook.

While the use of the device and apps like “Notability” – perfect for note-taking, recording lectures and sharing information – can be beneficial to students, there’s the chance, of course, kids could become distracted by other apps and features on the device.

“It’s possible for kids to become distracted by a pencil, really, especially when I was in school,” said Rob Hough, Director of Technology of the Christian Academy School System, which will lease nearly 860 Wi-Fi-only, second generation iPads to students entering high school at both the English Station and Indiana campuses. “Good classroom management is still good classroom management, but we do have a filtering (on the iPad),” he added.

While Christian Academy and St. X proudly offer the iPad, Assumption High School will implement the use of HP Tablet PC devices in the classroom.

“We want to do more than just read and receive text,” said Assumption’s Technology Director Joyce Koch. “We want to be able to create and edit and have the girls publish and analyze information more.”

Over the summer, incoming freshmen and sophomores at Assumption received leased tablet PCs, equipped with Microsoft office 2010, Adobe Creative Suite, subject specific software and virus protection, among other programs.

“I think it’s going to help us differentiate learning more, so we can individualize learning and make it be what it needs to be for each student,” Koch said. “(The tablets) will increase students’ 21st century skills, allowing them to become more proficient at finding the information they need, collaborating with others to understand facts and data, and presenting their findings in creative and imaginative ways.”

The devices will also help Assumption, as well as the iPad-friendly St. X and Christian Academy, become “greener” campuses, by eliminating the need for printing on paper, while sending literature via email. Trinity High School, now a completely wireless campus, will employ a similar tech policy this fall, authorizing students to bring their own devices, whether an iPad, tablet or laptop, in following with the Bring Your Own Technology (BYOT) trend many schools are adopting.

It’s a far cry from yesterday’s classroom, yet an essential transformation in a world exceedingly connected by the Internet and media. As high schools in Louisville become driven by tomorrow’s technology, today’s students can adapt to their ever-changing environment, and receive the necessary tools to develop into sharp, talented leaders and achievers of the future.

“I think one of the biggest lessons we can teach about technology to our students is when it is appropriate to use and when it’s not,” said Trinity Principal Dan Zoeller. “(Technology) it is ever-evolving. It changes week-to-week, month-to-month, and we feel very enthusiastic, we’re a little nervous, but very excited about the possibilities.”

Academic achievement at the click of a button

A successful start is key to a successful school year. So, before you head to the first day of classes, find all your back-to-school needs in one place at

Launched by Jefferson County Public Schools (JCPS) to be used as a resource for both JCPS employees and the entire community, the website provides a range of information, including a link to bus schedules, lunch menus, health requirements, enrollment/application procedures, as well as elementary and middle school supply lists, the “Parent Portal” for tracking your child’s progress in school, a free JCPS app and the school calendar, among other resources.

“The idea is trying to give parents one place to get as much information as they need to really have their students prepared to go back to school,” said Ben Jackey, a communications specialist at JCPS.

Parents aren’t the only ones who will find the website useful, though. Under the “Employees” tab, faculty and staff will discover resources to help them perform their job at the highest level. Children also can seek help on homework, a digital dictionary and additional practice with curriculum on the “Students” page.

With interactive games, such as “Study Island” and “SuccessMaker,” elementary, middle and high school students can improve reading and math comprehension, all the while having fun. Information on sports, clubs and other school activities can be found on the “Student” page, as well.

“It’s important in every aspect of education; you have to meet students where they are,” Jackey said. “What are they dealing with at home? What are they dealing with emotionally? And how are they learning? … Students are facing more technology than ever. … You have to meet students where they are and the old way of communication and in many ways the old way of teaching … the delivery has evolved.”