Pocomoke Freshmen First To Get iPads For School As Part Of Digital Conversion

Pocomoke Freshmen First To Get iPads For School As Part Of Digital Conversion

POCOMOKE — Digital Conversion within Worcester County Public School (WCPS) classrooms is near the top of the system’s priority list, and Pocomoke High School (PHS) has taken point on that front.

The school’s entire ninth grade class has been provided with iPad mini tablets for use in school and eventually at home.

There are roughly 100 students in the PHS freshman class and each of them is able to use a tablet through the school. The devices can be used for research, note taking, art and classroom interaction.

“It’s changed the dynamics of our whole world, technology really has,” said Principal Annette Wallace. “And I feel like this is a big step in catching up to that and staying up with it, staying current with what is going on.”

The iPads allow students to perform on-the-spot research wherever they are in school and there are a variety of educational apps available. Currently, students check the devices in and out at the start and end of each day, but the plan for next month is, with parents’ cooperation, to allow the devices to travel home.

“We need to break free of having the teacher be the only receptacle of knowledge,” said teacher Jessica McInerney. “I think it’s really great also to give the students the ability to understand and learn outside of the classroom, especially at home.”

The tablets can have meaningful interactions in the classroom and form a network between students as well as teachers, each of the latter also having been provided with an iPad mini. Wallace has noticed different classes taking advantage of the devices in different ways. In art, she has witnessed the built-in cameras and editing options being used on self-portraits to teach about photo negatives.

The iPads can also interact with classroom smartboards allowing teachers to poll students collectively for answers or send assignments to the board.

“The smartboards are fantastic and without the smartboard the iPad might not be as powerful for instructional purposes,” said Wallace.

The school recognizes the potential for the tablets and the room for misuse and therefore has made responsibility a big part of the experience.

“What we found first was that [students] needed to be educated on digital responsibility before they got the device so they’ve done several digital responsibility lessons that we’ve actually done with the whole school because we figured that digital responsibility in this age is good for everybody whether you’re getting an iPad or not,” said Wallace.

The tablets are kept visible on desks when in use and classrooms have implemented a clear stoplight system. Red means no iPads out, yellow means ask a teacher and green means the devices are allowed. Teachers can also call for “respect mode” and all iPads are put away so that students can focus on their instructor.

“We have very strict expectations. When we first gave them the iPads, we went over a presentation of those expectations,” said McInerney.

Teachers continued their two-week training course for the iPads this week. After familiarizing themselves with a new app, program or capability of the tablets, teachers receive a mark of recognition akin to a merit badge.

Once the devices are allowed to travel home with ninth graders, Wallace hopes that Pocomoke will work to expand downtown Wi-Fi for students who don’t have Internet at home though some spots are already available.

The goal for next year is to have every ninth grader in the county have access to a tablet.

Pocomoke’s iPads cost about $50,000 total with roughly half of that cost provided for by an endowment from a PHS alum and the rest matched through fundraising efforts.