HOLTVILLEÂ â€“ New worlds and possibilities are about to open up for Pine Elementary students in Holtville, thanks to a federal ConnectED grant that funded the distribution of brand new iPads to every student in the school Thursday.
Children were grinning from ear to ear as they were handed personally assigned iPads by their teachers, and they were more than ready to get started playing around with the features, both educational and entertaining. Classroom lessons for the day focused on activities to teach the students the ins and outs of their new tools.
â€œItâ€™s going to be cool because all the books can be in the iPad,â€ saidÂ Emily Stacey, a seventh grader. â€œItâ€™s just so awesome!â€
â€œItâ€™s cool, thereâ€™s so much to do,â€ said eight-year-old Nicole Ceja.
The ConnectED program is a government initiative started by President Obama which pledges $100 million in federal funds to schools for education. Pine is one of 114 schools in the United States to receive this grant, and the only school in the Imperial Valley to become a fully ConnetED-funded school.
According to Principal Mitchell Drye, the new iPads are meant to stay at the school, but will possibly be allowed home in the future. All students will also keep their individual iPads through their school years at Pine, returning them at the end of the eighth grade year.
Drye stated that these iPad tools will open doors, a sentiment echoed by the teachers of Pine. Â Teachers will be able to take their classrooms outside for learning activities, while large, hands-on projects will be easier to facilitate and more engaging. The future could see the implementation of many other possible uses and lessons gained from the new tools, according to school officials.
The studentsâ€™ iPads are the last piece of a long process that began in 2014 when Drye applied for the grants. Â The school received three grants: the Big 2.0 grant, the Apple grant, and a surprise grant from AT&T.
The Apple grant brought iPads to every teacher and student in the school along with new projectors and Apple TVs for classroom lessons. The Big 2.0 grant, part of the Apple grant, gives Pine School a more robust internet speed while paying for the total rewiring of the schoolâ€™s internet system to better prepare for the increase in activity.
The AT&T grant will allow students access to fast Wi-Fi inside the classroom and 4G coverage outside of the school walls when they are finally allowed to take the iPads home. The contribution from AT&T alone is worth $400,000, according to Christine Moore, an AT& T representative.
â€œItâ€™s a golden opportunity to do what we want for the school,â€ said Drye. “It allows me to give a lot of resources to my teachers.â€
The teachers believe the tablets will definitely help within the classrooms.Â Already there are thoughts of students possibly not having to take heavy books home and reading digital versions on their tablets.
â€œWeâ€™re looking forward to all the doors this is going to open to us,â€ said Debra Fargo, a secondÂ grade teacher at Pine.
â€œOnce we get them used to the routine, there will be doors opening for them,â€ said kindergarten teacher Emily Wolfe.
Though the plan is to eventually allow the students to take the iPads home, Drye said there are still a few months of training needed to learn the proper usage and respect for the technology.