By Todd Moen, Editor
Students have no shortage of distractions nowadays, considering the popularity of portable music players and video game systems, and, of course, cell phones.
At St. Joseph Catholic School in Waconia, however, officials are hoping to someday have a handheld electronic device in the hands of every student in order to take advantage of the vast learning possibilities many of these devices offer. To get started, St. Joe’s is equipping each of its seventh and eighth grade students with iPads starting this fall.
"The one iPad per pupil initiative is going to set St. Joe’s apart from the rest of the education community in Waconia and the surrounding area," said Jeff Lenzmeier, principal at St. Joe’s. "St. Joe’s recognizes that students today are learning and working differently in many capacities. We want to engage our students in more independent learning, make a move to more self-initiated learning and extend their learning beyond the classroom."
Lenzmeier said the use of iPads in the classroom offers huge opportunities.
"iPads are revolutionizing the education world and are enabling teachers to access more content instantaneously, present that content to the class more dynamically, and more fully engage the students by having them utilize the latest technological advancements," he said.
With each student having his or her own iPad, waiting for computer lab time will become a thing of the past and finishing one’s homework can be done practically anywhere.
"The middle school will have internet access 100 percent of the time thus allowing teachers and students to be more efficient with their classroom time," said Lenzmeier, who noted the many advantages of incorporating the iPad into classroom activities.
"Take a walk back in history by having the teacher be able to pull in outside material to complement the lesson plan by clicking on a link," he said. "Envision a science lab; dissecting a worm with the iPad there as a resource to facilitate a more complete understanding of what the student is experiencing."
He also noted the creative opportunities on the iPad, which has a camera and music capabilities. Lenzmeier said it would take time to fully learn what the school will be able to do with all of the different apps and other opportunities offered by the device.
Lenzmeier noted that by integrating the use of the iPads into the curriculum, everything from the labs, the links to outside material, the teacher’s syllabus, and eventually every textbook would be going home with the student on a nightly basis.
As noted, the seventh and eighth grade students will be using an iPad starting this fall, along with approximately half of the school’s faculty. By the end of the next school year, St. Joe’s hopes to have the entire middle school (grades 5-8) using iPads.
Each iPad costs approximately $500 and the entire initiative – which includes other technological upgrades such as the purchase of smart boards, teacher training, and building infrastructure / wireless network improvements – has a price tag of about $70,000, a cost that will be covered by proceeds from the 2012 Boogie Blast event held April 28,
The Boogie Blast is an annual fundraiser at St. Joe’s that supports the school and its fund-a-need initiatives. The event raised about $100,000 this year.
"St. Joe’s has a rich tradition of setting the academic bar high and building a strong educational foundation which prepares children to succeed in high school and further into college," Lenzmeier said. "(The iPad initiative) will continue that tradition."
The students are excited about the changes. Seventh grader Matt Stacken said the iPad would be convenient to use and offers things that students don’t always have access to, such as interactive math lessons and tutoring capabilities.
Seventh grader Abbey Schwob noted that she is excited to learn how to use the new technology for lessons and projects. She also likes that having an iPad will allow her to work on school projects anywhere, whether it’s at school or home.
On behalf of St. Joe’s, Lenzmeier congratulated alumnus and parishioner Madison Peitz for achieving the class rank of valedictorian for the Class of 2012 at Waconia High School.
"Congratulations Madison, we are all very proud of you and your efforts to achieve this honor," he said. "We wish you all the best as you continue your education at the College of St. Benedict."
Lenzmeier noted that Peitz joins two other St. Joe’s alumni who achieved the same honor over the past five years – Nicole Stenerson and Jennifer Caferella.