iPad demo highlights Gateway meeting

HUNTINGTON – The highlight of the regular Wednesday night meeting of the Gateway District School Committee was an update from Director of Technology Angela Burke and “friends.” The friends were second, third and fourth graders who demonstrated some of the educational applications or “apps” for the iPads that are in use in pre-kindergarten through fourth grade, and with special education students from pre-kindergarten through 12th grade, in the district.
For those who don’t know, the iPad is a line of tablet computers designed, developed and marketed by Apple Inc., primarily as a platform for audio-visual media including books, periodicals, movies, music, games, and web content (Wikipedia definition).
Burke said the students are using the iPads daily in the classroom, especially K-2 in Littleville, and third and fourth grade in Chester, which incorporates the technology into the daily lesson.
Math and English Language Arts, small group activities, phonics, and math supplemental work are some of the applications that are being used. Burke said the iPad fosters cooperative learning, and is a great tool to differentiate instruction, allowing students at different levels to work at their own level.
Nathan Crane, 9, from Chester demonstrated Pearl Diver, a math game that “dives” into decimals and fractions. His teacher, Heather Cabral of Chester Elementary, had to ask him to give an incorrect answer to show the result – the diver winds up with a “stinky boot” in a clam, rather than a pearl.
Cabral, who helps to train the other teachers on the use of the technology, said, “It is a perfect good use of their free time, or if they finish their assignments early I have no problem with them using the iPads, because I know they’re doing something educational.”
Chester Fourth Grader Charlotte Kazalski demonstrated another new math app, called Numbl. Admitting that she really didn’t like math, Charlotte said, “I think the iPads make math and learning fun.”
This is the second year that iPads are in use in Gateway elementary schools. When asked by School Committee member Ruth Kennedy if they have had an impact on MCAS results, Cabral said it was too soon to tell, but said they are learning the curriculum.  iPads and Macbooks are also available for students to lease or buy through the school. The information is available on the district website at www.grsd.org.
Also at the school committee meeting Wednesday, Huntington resident Kathy Gawle asked that a discussion about the fees being charged for student parking at Gateway be put on the agenda for the next meeting.  Gawle handed out information on fees charged by other schools in the region, saying, “Gateway is extremely high compared to all the other schools and districts in the area,” adding that the fee is close only to Belchertown, which charges $160 less.  It was agreed to add the item to the next agenda under old business.
Dr. David Hopson, Gateway Superintendent, also gave a presentation on requests and expenditures for the 2012-13 budget. In the latest Superintendent’s Corner, Hopson noted, “We will only present the expenditure side of the budget during the month of January. As many of our constituents know, the first hint of state revenue isn’t released until the Governor’s House One budget comes out at the end of January. Until final passage of the state’s FY’13 budget (usually in June), any revenue (Chapter 70, Transportation Reimbursement, etc.) is a prediction, at best. Thus the question that seems to be key each and every year – “what are our assessments?” – will still only be an estimate when the revenue side is first released in February. Perhaps this will give everyone the chance to focus first on the actual expenses in operating the district, rather than being solely concerned with the potential impact on local taxes.” Hopson also said all early budget documents would be posted for the public to review along with the school committee on the district’s website under the information tab.
The next Gateway District School Committee meeting will be held on Wednesday, January 25, at 7:30 pm in the Gateway Library.  The public is invited to attend.

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