Valdosta Daily Times

November 30, 2012

VECA integrates modern tech into classrooms

Brittany D. McClure
The Valdosta Daily Times

VALDOSTA — Valdosta Early College Academy has trailblazed the Apple revolution for education by becoming the only school in the area to give every student an iPad.

“We are one to one now,” said Dr. Brian Gerber, Valdosta State University’s director of curriculum, instruction and outreach. “One iPad to every student.”

Last summer, VECA began the initiative to place an iPad with every student. They were first given to 10th graders who took them home over the summer to do various reading assignments.

On Wednesday, all of VECA’s 48 sixth graders received their iPads, growing the complete iPad distribution to 188 school-wide.

Gerber said integrating iPads into education is not just revolutionary. It’s necessary.

“A school in the next five years that is with the times will have electronic textbooks,” said Gerber. “We are trying to make sure that these VECA students are ready for the world.”

Aside from electronic textbooks, in the very near future, all standardized testing in the state of Georgia will be done electronically.

“We want to try through these iPads to individualize instruction,” said Gerber. “So we can better prepare each individual student for college and beyond.”

The iPads will enable all VECA students to always have the most updated information.

“Now days, by the time a textbook is printed, it’s already out of date,” said Gerber.

The iPads have also made traditional “note taking” an archaic art. Students will also be able to be more connected to teachers and their lessons.

“We want to be able to capture teachers lessons on the iPads,” said Gerber. “They can go home and watch it on their iPad.”

In the classroom, teachers can go through a powerpoint while students read it on their own device. A teacher can take a student’s iPad and project work for the class to see. Students can type reports in class faster than they can write them, and then print them out wirelessly in the classroom.

The world will be at their fingertips and the educational possibilities will be endless.

For one student, eighth-grader Annalise Wojcik, it’s a dream come true.

“It’s made school less boring,” said Wojcik. “This is like a dream come true.”

Wojcik said her class and teachers use the iPads nearly all of the time.

Wojcik also commented on the different learning styles achieved through the technology. If students don’t understand a lesson audibly, they can see it on their iPads. They can focus their time and efforts absorbing the information as opposed to rushing to take notes so that they may understand it later.

The integration of iPads throughout VECA was not an easy feat.

“First we had to prepare the teachers,” said Dr. Andy Brovey of iPad Academy.

Before even the first iPad cam to VECA, Brovey spent his time working with teachers and showing them how to utilize the technology in the classroom.

“My primary role was to support what they were doing,” said Brovey. “And then set up the iPads so they were ready to go.”

Brovey had to help find apps that were conducive to VECA’s goals, and he even had to tackle the issue of making the iPads’ safe.

Gerber said several things were put in place to make sure the students are only accessing the appropriate apps. Aside from attending an hour-and-a-half-long orientation, the iPads have a fail-safe installed so that whatever app that is downloaded, can’t be deleted.

“Every app that they download can’t be deleted,” said Gerber. “We’re the only ones that can delete it.”

VECA is now fully outfitted to take its students into the future and beyond, and even more amazingly, it was done virtually on the academy’s own dime.

“The fundraising for the iPads comes from multiple sources,” said Gerber.

Pecan sales, supplements from the business community, VSU and more paid for every iPad.

“There is no outside grant that is supplying this,” said Gerber.