The Southeast Metro Stormwater Authority has completed a stream-stabilization improvement project for a segment of Little Dry Creek. It entailed stabilizing channel banks being undercut by erosional forces of the stream. Photo courtesy of SEMSWA
Carly Sellaro is graduating from Englewood High School this month as the school district’s first all-digital student, meaning she did all of her schooling on an iPad. This fall, Englewood Schools will distribute iPads to all 2,000 of its elementary and middle school students. Photo courtesy of Englewood Schools
District distributes iPads, graduates its first ‘digital student’
By Peter Jones
Englewood Schools has graduated into the 21st century.
As Englewood readies for a state-of-the-art combined middle school/high school campus that is slated to open early next year, the once-beleaguered school district is making technological strides that few could have predicted.
Beginning in the fall, every elementary and middle school student in the district – 2,000 in total – will receive a district-issued iPad for use at school, home and anywhere else the learning takes them.
Plans call for high school kids to eventually receive the devices too.
The move follows a pilot program in Englewood middle schools – one that saw such widespread appreciation that not a single student lost or damaged their device. Englewood Leadership Academy, the district’s admission-based middle school, uses iPads exclusively, completely eschewing traditional pen, paper and notebook.
As evidence of the evolving trend, this month Englewood High School graduated its first-ever all-digital student. Senior Carly Sellaro did all of her school assignments – homework, tests, projects – on an electronic device, even scanning those old-fashioned worksheets and handouts onto her well-worn iPad.
District spokeswoman Julie McGinley expects more students to follow in Sellaro’s footsteps as district iPads become as commonplace as backpacks and binders.
“We’re trying to move more toward 21st century learning,” McGinley said. “We’re going to have much more of a focus on technology just because it’s become so important in today’s workplace and because kids like it and we want to keep them engaged.”
The effort is also designed to enhance reading in a district that has sometimes struggled with at-risk populations. Each of the district-issued iPads will be equipped with a personalized literacy program called the myON reader.
As many as 3,000 books – fiction, nonfiction and textbooks – will be available for download on the device, which tracks a student’s reading interests and ability to understand. Among other features, the myON defines words for students when needed, recommends other books of similar subject and tests the student’s comprehension at the end of each chapter.
“Without a teacher having to go to a child and test them to see what their level is, this tool does that regularly,” McGinley said. “It graphs it and makes charts so a teacher will know if a certain student is struggling, so they can hopefully put some interventions in place sooner than later.”
Children without home Internet access will not be left out. Students can download as many as 20 books at a time while at school and read them anywhere they want.
“We’re hoping this levels the playing field so kids who might not have as much access to reading at home will have the same amount of access,” McGinley said. “If we had those 3,000 books in the library, only one student could read each book at a time. That limits the amount of reading that the kids can do.”
What’s more, because standard textbooks are part of the myON library, the district will save money on purchasing them for every student.
The $1.1 million initiative is being made possible in large part by the Morgridge Family Foundation, which has pledged more than $100,000 toward the effort. The rest of the money is coming from a technology-oriented bond fund and from the district’s general-fund reserves.
Sellaro, the district’s first all-digital graduate, may be the sign of things to come. For the Englewood High School student-body president, it was just a matter of wanting to cut through the clutter of papers, folders and notebooks. The 21st century learner was often ahead of her teachers, who were not as proficient in the digital world.
“Some of my grades would drop because my teachers weren’t used to checking their email for my assignments,” she said. “I’d have to remind them that it was in their inbox, so after they got it my grades would go back up.”
McGinley says Sellaro was often in the position of teaching the teachers.
“It was kind of an adjustment on their part,” McGinley said. “But hopefully, she paved the way for that to be more normal.”
Sellaro helped Englewood Leadership Academy go digital, training that middle school’s teachers on her own self-taught techniques and largely saving them the trial and error of jumping headfirst into digital technology.
This fall, she will attend Metropolitan State University, where she intends to continue her all-digital studies.
McGinley expects Sellaro’s example to be the wave of the future as students become accustomed to virtual learning.
“What we saw in the middle schools is that kids love their iPads,” the district spokeswoman said. “If for some reason their iPad isn’t charged or they don’t have access to it, it’s a bummer for them to have to write on paper.”
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