Local school adds iPads to classroom

By Karen Billing

As the Rancho Santa Fe School District looks at ways to implement technology, such as mobile learning devices in its school, a school in neighboring Del Mar is leading the way. For the third year, Del Mar Heights School is using iPods in the classroom and this year fourth-graders are also using iPads in class.

Technology at the Heights, which is in the Del Mar Union School District, is completely project based, supporting what students are learning in the classroom, said Gail Moran, Extended Studies Curriculum technology teacher.

In no way are the devices a “babysitting tool” and Moran said one of the most exciting things to happen is that the iPads and iPods have changed the way teachers teach and the way children learn.

The program goes hand in hand with the district’s goal to create a 21st century learner — students learn collaboration, communication, problem solving, media literacy and digital citizenship.

“We have to provide these opportunities for kids because in the future that’s what they’re going to need. We’re preparing them for jobs that haven’t even been created yet,” Moran said.

Del Mar Heights isn’t the only local school breaking new ground in technology.

Cathedral Catholic High School next year will become the first school in San Diego County with a schoolwide One to One iPad3 program — iPads for every student. Parents will still purchase a limited number of textbooks and pay an annual fee for the iPad rental, apps and other technology needs.

“These young people grew up on this type of technology — they’re digital natives,” said Sean Doyle, director of technology in a press release. “We believe these devices will offer them access to more information for less money, as well as increase their efficiently and fully engage them in learning.”

Del Mar Heights’ iTouch pilot program launched in spring 2010 with one third-grade class using iPods. In 2011, they added a second third-grade class. This year, all three third-grade classes have iPods and the fourth-graders share one set of iPads.

Their program is constantly evolving, with help from generous PTA donations, and Moran hopes they are able to purchase a second set of iPads for the fifth-grade next year.

Other schools in the Del Mar district have started to look at mobile devices as well—Del Mar Hills has netbooks, Carmel Del Mar has netbooks donated by the Dad’s Club this year and Google Chromebooks will be piloted at Sycamore Ridge this spring.

The district is looking to make a decision in June about what type of mobile device will be implemented at all the schools and then it will be piloted at two schools’ fourth- through sixth-grade classrooms.