Portland elementary school may provide iPads to students

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PORTLAND — Students at the East End Community School may soon join the growing number of school children using Apple iPads as learning tools.

EECS Principal Marcia Gendron, who moved from the Reiche School to EECS last year, has asked the School Department to purchase iPads and possibly even iPods as part of the federal School Improvement Grant process.

The school received $1.8 million from the federal government to improve its students’ test scores as part of a three-year turn-around plan for the school.

“We would be able to cross language barriers like we’ve never done before,” Gendron said during a recent School Board meeting.

A significant number of students at the school come from families where English is not spoken at home. Gendron said she hopes the iPads will help teachers work with English language learners, providing instant access to their native languages online and possibly facilitating English learning at home.

“We want to merge this with parent and family engagement. What we’re hoping is that it extends the learning so that it’s really 24/7,” Gendron said.

Gendron said the school was also considering using the grant to purchase iPods for use in classrooms.

The grant will create classes for teachers and possibly in-class lessons, so teachers can learn how to use the new technology alongside their students.

One of the major hurdles, though, is technology support staff.

“I called IT today and they said they didn’t have enough time,” School Board member Sarah Thompson said at last week’s meeting. “I’m concerned about how we will support (iPads).”

Superintendent James C. Morse Sr. said he has met with a local technology company and that the district may go seek bids on an assessment of its current technology support staff and infrastructure.

Other School Board members expressed concern that new technology would weaken or dissolve the interpersonal relationships between teachers and their students.

“There’s a huge relationship component,” Gendron said. “Someone would be assisting us with that.”

In addition to the iPads, the grant will cover extended learning opportunities before and after school, technology and literacy coaches, and parent and community programming support.

Gendron said she has tried to avoid using SIG money to hire new teachers, because the grant money will be gone in three years.

“I’m really looking at this as being sustainable, so that it doesn’t require financial support once we get through the grant,” she said.

The board does not have to approve the iPad expenditure or the three-year SIG plan.

Emily Parkhurst can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 125 or eparkhurst@theforecaster.net. Follow her on Twitter: @emilyparkhurst.

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