Guilford school recognized nationally for high-tech efforts

Posted Feb. 14, 2011, at 7:18 p.m.

GUILFORD, Maine — SAD 4 may represent one of the poorer school districts in the state, but the district continues to excel in computer technology, and its Piscataquis Community Secondary School recently was recognized by Apple as one of 52 Apple Distinguished Schools in the nation.

The district, which includes students from Guilford, Sangerville, Abbot, Parkman, Cambridge and Wellington, was one of the first in the nation several years ago to provide each of its middle school students with their own Apple computers. That program has been expanded into Piscataquis Community High School.

Students travel the world through the World Wide Web, participate in hands-on education using probeware and communicate with their peers using the computers at their fingertips.

“It’s not one unique project with us, [the computers are] used constantly throughout the curriculum in various courses and in various ways,” Crystal Priest, the district’s technology coordinator, said Tuesday. The students use them for everything, she said, for traditional writing reports or for the nontraditional, using the probe attachment to determine data such as velocity and heart rates.

“It really is about shifting the way kids learn and how teachers teach,” Priest said. “You can read in a textbook about heart rate and what happens when you exercise, but when you actually do it and you have the tools to accurately measure it and plot it and see what’s happening, it makes it more realistic.”

That constant use of technology has brought recognition to the district over the years, the latest of which came last week when Piscataquis Community Secondary School (both high and middle schools) was named an Apple Distinguished School. The school was one of 52 named across the nation.

The Apple Distinguished School designation is reserved for schools that have become centers of educational excellence and leadership, consistently demonstrating best practice qualities of a 21st century learning environment using Apple technology, John Couch, Apple vice president, wrote in a press release.

“In reviewing the great work that is under way at Piscataquis Community Secondary School, I was especially impressed by your success with the implementation of Apple notebook computers and iPod devices to create technology-rich learning experiences for all students,” Couch wrote. “Your school serves as an example for other schools both locally and nationally.”

Priest said SAD 4 began its leadership role 10 years ago when it became the first district in the state to provide a computer for each of its middle school pupils. Since that time, a lot of the district’s policies, procedures and setups for technology have been adopted at the state level, she said.

“The reality is that only about 8 percent of students in the country have one-to-one access still [whereas] we’ve been doing it for 10 years, we’re used to it and we don’t think twice about using it,” Priest said.

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