By Valerie Franchi, Contributing Writer
Grafton – After being on the verge of losing its accreditation with the New England Association of Schools and Colleges, Inc., in 2008, Grafton High School is now a blazing a trail in the state with its 1:1 iPad program, according to Massachusetts Commissioner of Elementary and Secondary Education Mitchell D. Chester.
“Grafton is on the leading edge of what we are seeing more and more in the districts,” he said.
Chester, accompanied by State Rep. David Muradian, R-Grafton, Superintendent James Cummings and Principal James Pignataro, visited the school Feb. 6 to hear a presentation and tour several classrooms to observe how the devices are being used by both the teachers and students.
The program was introduced in 2012, the same year as the opening of the brand new $73 million high school building. The devices are leased through Apple and are given to each of the 800 students in grades 9 to 12, who use them in nearly every aspect of their school experience.
According to Assistant Principal Jonathan Kelly, the iPads are enhancing students’ learning and preparing them for the future.
“We wanted to move away from passive learning. Students learn better when they are active participants,” he said. “[Using iPads] promotes creativity, critical thinking and collaboration -skills that employers are looking for.”
On a daily basis, the iPads are used for organization, communication, research, presentations and studying.
And it’s not only the students that are excited about them.
“I can’t imagine not having them,” said chemistry teacher John Roix. “It levels the playing field so all students have equal access to technology.”
Kelly said one of the things that makes the program so successful is providing teachers with the support and training they need to use the iPads effectively.
And if that’s not enough, English teacher Karla Evers said the students are always willing to jump in and offer help if a teacher gets stuck. There is also a tech force of students that provides support and troubleshooting services.
“It’s successful because of the community here,” she noted.
Even parents are involved in the program; a parents’ community tech night is held monthly.
But it is the students who are solely responsible for protecting their iPad and using it properly. Each student is given a case and Internet usage is monitored and restricted to appropriate educational content, although there are rare cases of misuse.
“We want to teach them digital citizenship. Students need to be responsible and productive,” explained Technology Director Andrew Marcinek. “But we expect them to make mistakes and now is the time to do it.”
He noted that by the end of February, to keep up with technology, students will all receive new, updated iPads. The old iPads will be recycled to the middle school to give those students a head start on using the technology.