New Doors are Opening at Pine Elementary with iPads

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Third grader Nicole Ceja, receives her very own iPad that will stay with her through her school years at Pine Elementary.
Third grader Nicole Ceja receives her very own iPad that will stay with her through her school years at Pine Elementary.

HOLTVILLE – 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.

“It’s going to be cool because all the books can be in the iPad,” said Emily Stacey, a seventh grader. “It’s just so awesome!”

“It’s cool, there’s so much to do,” 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.  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 students’ iPads are the last piece of a long process that began in 2014 when Drye applied for the grants.  The school received three grants: the Big 2.0 grant, the Apple grant, and a surprise grant from AT&T.

7th grade students going over some of the features on their iPads.
Pine School seventh grade students go over some of the features on their new iPads.

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 school’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.

“It’s a golden opportunity to do what we want for the school,” said Drye. “It allows me to give a lot of resources to my teachers.”

Kindergarteners Matthew (front) and Mario (back) figuring out the camera features on their new iPads.
Kindergarteners Matthew (front) and Mario (back) figure out the camera features on their new iPads.

The teachers believe the tablets will definitely help within the classrooms.  Already there are thoughts of students possibly not having to take heavy books home and reading digital versions on their tablets.

“We’re looking forward to all the doors this is going to open to us,” said Debra Fargo, a second grade teacher at Pine.

“Once we get them used to the routine, there will be doors opening for them,” 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.