St. Mary's students receive iPad minis
WORTHINGTON — Students at St. Mary's school in Worthington may have kicked off Catholic Schools Week by wearing their favorite sports team jersey to class, but a donation of 22 new iPad minis hit a home run with the kids.
Representatives from the St. Mary's Council of Catholic Women (CCW) handed off the iPads to smiling sixth-graders Monday afternoon. The tablet computers were purchased with a $7,000 donation from the CCW to "use as the school sees fit."
"I think it's going to be very useful," said sixth-grader Gracie Barber. "I'm thankful that (the CCW) did it, and they are very thoughtful."
Her fellow classmates, Fanial Woldu and Maggie Putnum, summed up the donation in two words: "It's cool!"
CCW member Sandy Ponto said their group donated funds two years ago to complete some woodworking projects to beautify and improve classrooms. With that project completed, the group wanted to do something that would benefit the students.
"(The iPads) had come out at the public school and we thought we should do it so they are all on the same page when they get to seventh grade," Ponto said.
She envisions the 400-member CCW organization continuing to fundraise for technology in the classrooms.
St. Mary's Principal Kari Smith said the iPads will be used by all students, from kindergarten through sixth grade. Classrooms will be able to check out iPads for an hour-long class or an entire morning or afternoon.
With 22 iPad minis, it will allow most classes to have one iPad per student. In other classes, some students may have to share.
Applications for the iPad minis range from free to a few dollars each, and Smith said apps will be loaded on them before they are distributed.
"There are a number (of apps) that are out there that are free and are phenomenal," she said, adding that she envisions students using the tablets for reading, math and research.
"Right now, conductivity is a problem and Internet access is kind of spotty," Smith said.
In the next several months, they hope to improve Internet access and familiarize both students and teachers on what the iPads can be used for.
Smith said the iPads were received a week ago, and were distributed to teachers on Thursday. Many of the teachers have little to no experience using the tablet computers.
"We'll do weekly in-services for a couple of weeks and show them how to maneuver through some of the apps," Smith said.
She also anticipates that students will be able to educate teachers on some of the things that can be done on the devices.
"Kids will be helping us, absolutely," Smith said with a laugh.
CCW members said they were glad to be able to provide funding for technology that will help St. Mary's students succeed.
"I think it's the latest learning tool and we need to keep up," said Dee Ella.
Meanwhile, Ponto expressed appreciation to the teachers for their willingness to learn how to use the iPad and incorporate them into the classrooms.
"Students can't be working just out of textbooks anymore," she said.
"I think it will keep (students) competitive with other schools," added Elaine Hay, while Betty Kellen said she could perhaps learn how to use an iPad from her grandchildren now.
St. Mary's has an enrollment of 108 students in K-6. During this Catholic School Week, they will participate in special events each day. Tuesday was broken bone and Move-It day; today is Duct Tape Day with an afternoon of bowling planned; Thursday is Pajama Day with afternoon fun including a movie, photo booth and Minute to Win It contests.
Following a special family mass on Friday, students may participate in Hat and Shades Day, with family and parishioners invited to join students for rolls and coffee following mass.
"We will finish out the day with root beer floats and Bingo," Smith said. "What says Catholic church more than Bingo?
"It's just a good week to celebrate Catholic education — to celebrate our school and our faith and the knowledge we impart on our students," she added.
Smith also acknowledged others who, during the past year, have donated to the school. The St. Mary's Knights of Columbus donated $500 to purchase Bibles for the fourth-grade classroom; the Elks donated $2,000 to the school's physical education and music programs; and the Veterans of Foreign Wars donated a new standing American flag for display on the school stage.