The digital classroom: Bay View welcomes the iPad

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RIVERSIDE — Inspiring creativity, St. Mary Academy - Bay View has encouraged hands-on learning with an educational tool that students really want to use.

Proving that there is no shortage of ways that new technology supports teaching and learning, Bay View recently introduced the first generation Apple iPad into their early childhood classrooms.

Teachers can choose from thousands of educational apps available for download, enabling the young students to learn in new ways with just the touch of a finger.

With very little instruction, the 3 and 4- year-olds have been able to navigate the iPad and the apps available to them, said Pre-K teacher Nancy Parella.

“From a teacher’s perspective, there seems to be an endless supply of apps to support whatever we are learning in the classroom from math skills, literacy, phonics, handwriting and science,” she said. “The students have taken to the iPads like fish to water. They cannot wait until iPad day.”

The technology is fun for them, said Pre-K teacher Jan Cooney, who explained that the students have taken to the device very easily — “one more way the educators can support new ways of learning without making it seem like work.”

“We use the iPads at center time and the girls are always excited to use them,” said Cooney. “The apps we have selected reinforce the things we are learning in class and we can easily load new apps when we introduce new material in class.”

According to Apple’s guide for using iPad for Teaching and Learning, educators all over the world are exploring the tools required to develop the 21st century skills students need to succeed in school. The portability and long battery life of the iPad give students anytime access to learning from any location.

The structure of the classroom is changing, said Linda Grasso, Lower School technology teacher at Bay View. Grasso shared that the children are incredibly careful with the iPads, which typically cost about $500.

“They know they’re expensive, somehow they just know that it is special,” she said. “But, they are very durable and easy to clean. The children are really good at taking care of them. They look brand new. You wouldn’t know that they were used by 3 and 4-year-olds.”

Cindy Lorincz, principal of Bay View’s lower and middle schools, said that the early childhood years are the best time to introduce the young students to this kind of technology, crediting the intuitive nature of children.

“I have an iPad at home and when my granddaughters wanted to play with it I was reluctant to hand it over, but the children are careful. As an adult, I am reluctant to try new things with the iPad, but the kids have none of these hang-ups.”

Grasso said she is constantly reading to keep up technology and with her students.

“I’m keeping informed, “ she said. “I constantly subscribe to many different online resources and try to keep up with everything. I’m just always working with these devices and just playing around with them. There’s always something new.”

For the children, it’s easy for them to keep up to speed on the technology, explained Kathleen Ross, director of technology for the middle school.

“It’s so easy for them,” she said. “It’s definitely a great tool at this early childhood level. There are all sorts of possibilities. It’s hard to make the time to stay on top of technology, but you have to make the time. We are all learning from each other.

“It’s important to keep an eye on what technology meets your needs, rather than going for the newest thing,” Ross added. “We are so glad that it’s working so well. The teachers and the students have embraced it.”