May 20, 2018
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Foxcroft Academy to furnish iPads to students, teachers

Diana Bowley | BDN
Diana Bowley | BDN
Foxcroft Academy students, including Emily Higgins (front) and Cooper Marden, both freshmen, finish up a pilot project using iPads in the classroom Thursday. The project, which involved the use of about 60 iPads that were shared among the students and staff was so successful that the academy is purchasing iPads for all students for use next year.
By Diana Bowley, BDN Staff

DOVER-FOXCROFT, Maine — Foxcroft Academy trustees plan to take a giant leap into the 21st century this summer with the purchase of more than 500 iPads for student and teacher use.

The trustees’ decision follows a successful pilot program that was launched at FA this year in which 60 iPad tablets were purchased and shared by students and staff to gauge the tool’s performance.

The independent school, which educates AOS 68 high school students from Dover-Foxcroft, Charleston, Sebec and Monson, as well as foreign tuition students, is believed to be the first high school in the state to convert to the iPad tablet. The Cape Elizabeth school system plans to conduct a similar pilot program in the fall at its high school. The Auburn School District plans to supply its kindergarten pupils with iPads in the fall.

“We’re positioning the school for the future,” FA Head of School Arnold Shorey said Thursday. “We’re kind of in the need to improve our infrastructure and we piloted something that we thought would improve learning, teaching and student assessment. Through the pilot program we believe we found that tool.”

David Connerty-Marin, spokesman for the Maine Department of Education, said Thursday he was not aware of any other high school providing iPads to its students. He noted that the state currently participates in a laptop program and is not involved with iPads. In a couple of years, however, when the state seeks new technological devices for students that provide certain functions, Apple may present a proposal for laptops, or iPads, or both, he said. Whatever company makes the proposals would have to demonstrate why a particular device, along with its software and programming, would meet the state’s requirements.

FA officials say the iPads are appealing because they are durable, have no moving parts, can act as a Kindle so textbooks and classics can be downloaded, and are about half the cost of a laptop. Textbook companies are rushing to create electronic versions of their textbooks for iPads, which will save money on books in the future and lighten the physical load that students carry from one class to another, Shorey noted.

Unlike most Maine schools, Foxcroft Academy didn’t jump to purchase computers for each of its students a few years ago; instead, it has used a pool of computers that were shared by students in a computer laboratory. During that time, other technological advances were being closely monitored by staff.

While the cost to equip the school with the tablet computers is hefty, Shorey believes the funds will be available. Trustees hope to raise more than $100,000 through the school’s annual giving campaign for the purchase of 530 iPads, Shorey said, although he stressed that the final price has not yet been negotiated.

Students learned Wednesday that the iPads will be purchased and delivered this summer.

“They were very excited,” Shorey said. Very rarely does an administrator get applause, but that was the case when the announcement was made, he said.

Student Ashley Murray, a junior, said iPads are great for use in the classroom and are better than computers. For example, her physics class was studying projectile motions, and with one touch the students could enlarge the iPad screen to better view the video. “It’s a great experience,” she said.

Cooper Marden, a freshman, said iPads are easy to carry from class to class and from the school to home.

The students aren’t the only people eagerly awaiting the iPads. “The teachers were very excited about it,” Shorey said. “They were able to see the opportunities that the iPads have in their classrooms.”

Mathematics teacher Justine Lavigne hinted she has more ideas for their use than hours in the school day. “The possibilities are endless,” she said. Lavigne believes the iPads will increase student interest in homework assignments and allow them to take classroom notes faster.

Lavigne said her biggest pet peeve in the past was the amount of time wasted during the day by such jobs as taking attendance. The iPad has improved that function with just a push of a button, she said.

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