The Register-Herald, Beckley, West Virginia

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September 6, 2013

iRaleigh Initiative — iPads set Shady Spring High School students abuzz

SHADY SPRING — Excitement buzzed in the air at Shady Spring High School Thursday as students were assigned their own iPads.

The iRaleigh Initiative — deployment of iPads to every Raleigh County student in grades two through 12 — brought smiles and some tears to students at the high school.

“They are pretty pleased,” remarked Mary Ann Foster, technology coordinator for Raleigh County Schools.

Students leaned in close as technology experts from the central office helped them to set up passwords and answered questions. They examined the iPads and pointed out features, talking excitedly with administrators, teachers and each other.

“Unfortunately, some don’t have opportunities at home that they would have these devices,” Foster said. “We’re equaling the playing field.

 “(Some students) hugged the iPads and would say, ‘This is really mine?’” said Foster. “It’s an emotional thing for people to see.

“Humbling is what it is,” she added. “It’s humbling.”

Shady senior Jessica Snow, 17, described students’ reactions to receiving the new technology.

“We were basically excited,” said Snow. “The second we got it, we started using the camera and taking pictures.”

Foster and her team of technology experts proved that practice makes perfect. In 70 minutes, they’d handed out around 800 iPads, making sure each student had one.

“I was surprised at how organized it was,” remarked Nicole Hegele, 17, a senior.

She added that the first sight of so much technology was impressive, too.

“It was amazing to see every iPad lined up,” said Hegele.

Students said they expect the iPads to expand their educational experience.

“I feel like it can be utilized, and it can be a lot of help,” remarked Anthony Watkins, 17.

Watkins, Hegele and Snow said they want to be reassured that teachers are receiving adequate training to teach on the devices, that wireless keyboards are permissible under the student use policy and that school Wi-Fi will be fast enough to keep up with academic demands.

Foster explained that Wi-Fi service is being upgraded today to accommodate the use of so many iPads at the same time.

While the school system will not provide wireless keyboards, the keyboards are permissible, she assured students.

Teacher training started Tuesday, and each teacher will receive seven training sessions throughout the academic year.

Foster said the success of iRaleigh will be when teachers are using the iPads to expand students’ educational horizons.

She said she’s received positive feedback from teachers who have received training this week.

“Teachers feel they’re leaving the teacher training center, and they can take what they’ve learned back to the classroom and use it,” said Foster. “When teachers are using iPads, that’s the success.”

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