Rollout provides an iPad to every G-AHS student

Shawn Hardy news@echo-pilot.com
Gunnar Lunday, shown here during English class, helped prepare iPads for the January rollout in his Occ-Tech class last semester and also works at the ETO Help Desk in the library. SHAWN HARDY/ECHO PILOT

The BYOD days are over and the digital divide is being crossed at Greencastle-Antrim High School.

Just weeks ago at the beginning of the second semester, each high school student received an iPad under the district's Equal Technology Opportunities initiative.

The high school iPad rollout is one piece of the ETO plan under which every elementary classroom got five additional iPads at the beginning of the 2019-20 school year and it is hoped every middle school student will receive an iPad in the 2020-21 school year, according to Dwight Bard, the district's director of technology.

The rollout process was a "true team effort" and went as smoothly as possible in putting iPads in the hands of about 930 students and their teachers, according to Dr. Ed Rife, G-AHS principal.

"It was a long time coming, but it was good when we got here," Rife said. "Now comes the fun part, getting out in the classrooms and seeing how teachers are using them."

The tech plan 

Technology options have been discussed various times over the years. The plan put in place was formulated by the Technology Committee 2.0 — made up of administrators, board members, teachers and parents — and presented to the school board in June 2019.

Technology is not even mentioned in the ETO mission statement, which is "To foster a culture of growth and engagement, G-ASD will empower student success through effective communication, ongoing learning, and professional development."

Rife used a quote from John Dewey, an education reformer a century ago, in presentations to parents and students prior to the rollout:

" ... If we teach today as we taught yesterday, we rob our children of tomorrow."

ETO strives to enhance the teaching and learning environment by:

• Equalizing learning opportunities for all

• Providing immediate access to information and digital resources

• Allowing for innovative instructional strategies that provide an environment for creativity and engagement

• Increasing student engagement through individualization

• Providing ongoing professional development opportunities

 No more BYOD 

"The world has changed. Technology used to be an event, now it's a part of everyday life," Rife said. "We need to get technology in hands like textbooks."

The high school previously had a hodgepodge of equipment, purchased as money was available, including mobile devices, iPads and laptops.

Although the high school is technically cell phone free between 7:30 a.m. and 2:30 p.m., students were previously able to get them out for classroom use under the gray area of "Bring Your Own Device," Rife said.

However, not all students had the same devices and even at home, some families were sharing theirs.

"We want to make sure all the kids have the same experience," Rife said.

Teaching teachers 

Not all students were on the same page concerning technology and neither were their teachers. All are now Apple Teacher certified and continuing professional development will be key to making the most of what's available, according to Rife.

Leading the way at each building are four vanguard teachers. At the high school, the team is made up of Justin Moose, social studies; Ross Winegardner, English; Erica Hager, math; and Laura Oslik, science.

"Having a group like this is a huge part of implementation," Rife said.

Moose explained he is learning as much as he can to share with the rest of the faculty.

"Technology is where our economy is moving ... it's a tool to better my teaching so kids can get the most out of my class," Moose said.

Hager shows others in her department how to use the technology in the classroom to help students with real world applications they will be able to use when they get jobs.

Every department and every teacher is implementing various ways of equipping students for when they leave the high school, Moose agreed. Teachers use technology in different capacities, he said, explaining what he does is different than a math or science class.

Oslik is finding a different kind of engagement and communication from students, such as sharing photos of their work or sending questions at night. She noted that the devices have not replaced activities. For example, hands-on materials are still used in science labs, but students may use the device to take pictures in the lab.

Students also are still working collaboratively, and Hager said she thinks the iPads are helping students talk to one another more, including ones who wouldn't have talked to each other much before.

That goes for communicating with teachers, too.

"It empowers them when they can reach out. If they reach out, I know they need attention. They can't fly under the radar," Moose said.

Winegardner finds he has more time to talk with individual students. "Instead of me up there talking at them, I can work more with them," he said.

 In the classroom 

Caroline Poole, an 11th-grader, and Mason McCullough, a 12th-grader, sat at a table with hardcopy books in their hands during the 10-minute reading period at the start of their human rights literature class taught by Winegardner.

While Poole said she prefers paper to staring at a screen, she said the iPads benefit students by allowing them to all look at the same things, share notes and look up things right away, something she used to have to do on her phone.

If the book they want to read is not available in the high school or local library, Winegardner has signed up for ebooks through the Free Library of Philadelphia.

A senior, McCullough will only have the device for one semester, but said, "I think it will be helpful for grades coming up."

Gunnar Lunday, another senior, sat a table away. Last semester, he was in the Occ-Tech Class: Occupations in Technology class that got the iPads ready, doing everything from data entry to labeling.

"The Occ-Tech students worked so hard to get ready. I don't know how we would have done it without them," Rife said.

Now, Lunday works every morning at the ETO Student Help Desk set up in a corner of the library. He said the most frequently asked question is "Can I get this app?" and the answer is the request has to come from a teacher, one of the many safety measures that surround the iPads.

Like in a professional environment, the help desk operates with a ticket system and "the ticket count is the lowest it's been in a while," Lunday said. "I feel like students are getting the hang of it."

After their free reading time, Winegardner had his class download "1979 Revolution: Black Friday" — a digital narrative and game about the Iranian Revolution — on their iPads. It dovetailed with the graphic novel — a novel in comic strip form — they were studying, "Persepolis: The Story of a Childhood," a woman's memoir about growing up during the revolution. The game featured character choices, personal vs. political wants, and questions like "Would you engage in violence?" along with real photos of the revolution.

Down the hall, Rebecca Rice's honors English 10 class was also reading ""Persepolis," with both print and digital versions available. Rice said her students could annotate with digital notes on their iPads and get into groups and collaborate, with everyone adding to a document while she could comment on it in real time.

Collaboration was also the name of the game a floor below for one of Moose's classes. The students were working on a project on the Reformation, which previously would have seen them making a poster and standing up in front of the class talking about it.

Instead, they broke up into groups to create a PowerPoint of key information and did screen recordings they could edit to share with everyone in the class.

"We don't have to handwrite it all," said Jazzman Patterson, who worked with Mike Carbaugh, Scott MacIntyre and Liam Hart.

 By the numbers 

The students each got an iPad and the software, a charger and a case with a keyboard. The majority take them home at night — and can keep them over the summer — by paying the one-time off-campus fee of $25. The family maximum is $50. The fee is waived for students eligible for free or reduced lunch, as well as members of the Class of 2020 who will use the iPads for just a few months until graduation.

The cost to lease the devices is $113,100 a year, according to Bard. Rife noted that leasing the iPads means they can be updated as technology changes.

Many of the previous devices were getting to the end of their lifetimes and the replacement cost to purchase just the laptops would have been upwards of $450,000 — and that still not would have provided an iPad for each student, according to Bard.

"By choosing the more cost effective iPad as the ETO device, we were able to stretch out dollar and ensure that each student would receive a device," he said.

 Safe use

"My number one concern was how to keep kids safe," Bard said, who installed numerous controls, including filters and firewalls.

These features and a host of other topics — ranging from why this technology route was taken to safe use of technology at home — were covered during parent information nights late last year, as well as student rollout presentations.

In addition, every ninth-grader takes the class digital foundations, which includes topics such as cybersecurity, digital citizenship, copyrights and computer basics such as making folders.

Teachers work in Apple Classroom so they can see what is on the screen of every student in their room.

"There are a lot of control features to help teachers," Bard said.

 'ETO Habits for Digital Success' 

Posters headlined "ETO Habits for Success" remind everyone at the high school to be on their best digital behavior.

  • Tech Habits

Keep your device charged

Keep your device safe

Store files in the cloud

Keep private information private

Know your digital footprint is permanent

  • Academic Habits

Search wisely and critically

Cite your sources

Use proper language, grammar and spelling

Stay on task during instructional time

  • Social Habits

Be a good citizen

Respect yourself and others

Help prevent cyberbullying

Follow the GAHS Code of Conduct

Detailed information about ETO, including frequently asked questions, can be found under the technology tab on the district website: