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County schools’ iPad use, Warrior Tech on display
Apple National Visit Day
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In Leslie Howell’s second-grade class at Rich Acres Elementary School, visitors (standing from left) Mike Adkins, Lynn Yates and Catiia Greene observe students (sitting from left) Demarius Barksdale and Blane Coplin as they do an assignment on iPads. Adkins and Greene are with the Danville Public Schools; Yates is with the Montgomery County Public Schools. Their visit was part of National Apple Visit Day, in which designated schools showed their uses of technology to other educators. (Bulletin photos by Paul Collins)
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Friday, March 21, 2014

By PAUL COLLINS - Bulletin Staff Writer

As part of Apple National Visit Day recognizing Henry County Public Schools, educators traveled Wednesday to Magna Vista High and Rich Acres Elementary to see iPads in use as well as Magna Vista’s Warrior Tech Academy.

HCPS was recognized as an Apple Distinguished Program for 2013-15 for its 1:1 digital textbook implementation with Apple iPads, school officials have said.

Representatives from the Pittsylvania, Franklin and Montgomery county and Danville school systems were among the approximately 40 people who attended. They traveled by school buses to Magna Vista and Rich Acres following an opening meeting at the Henry County Administration Building.

In the traditional part of Magna Vista, attendees visited classes where students did assignments with iPads.

In interviews, 10th-graders Breona Warren, in an English class, and Harrison Norris, in a biology class, both said they like using iPads in the classroom.

“It’s more interactive” than a traditional textbook, Harrison said, which makes it more interesting to him.

Janet Copenhaver, HCPS’ director of technology and innovation, said the school division started with 40 iPads about four years ago and now has more than 5,000. She gave this current update: “1:1 in grades 3, 4, and 5 with all digital textbooks; added grade 6 for 2013/14 school year; carts in grades pre-K-6-12; carts in CTE (career and technical education) classes; and MacBook Airs for New Tech students.” (MacBook Air is a thin, lightweight laptop from Apple.)

Copenhaver said there are dozens of educational applications on iPads being used in the schools and digital textbooks on the iPads at some grade levels.

Magna Vista High School Principal Gracie Agnew pointed out that iPads have cameras, and some classes at Magna Vista have made educational videos.

When asked whether she thinks students learn better with iPads, Agnew said it’s more a matter of, “We have stepped into the world of students. ... They are very familiar with technology.” Ease of use and quickness make iPads attractive, she said.

Warrior Tech Academy is a school within a school at Magna Vista that opened in August. It is the first New Tech Network school in Virginia. Project-based learning and problem-based learning, multi-subject classes, educators guiding students in learning rather than lecturing, problem-solving with real life applications, working in groups, and communicating effectively are among the techniques, officials have said.

Ninth-graders D’Kiah King, Charity Brimmer, Kristel Hairston and Tevonna Penn greeted visitors and answered their questions about how Warrior Tech works.

In an interview, Charity said she likes the experience of going out into the community and doing projects.

“It prepares us for college classes — the projects. It teaches us how to be more independent,” Tevonna said.

Withers Jackson, principal of George Washington High School in Danville, said after talking with D’Kiah, Charity, Kristel and Tevonna, “The concept of Warrior Tech and the integration of technology is a great program.”

Cynthia Johnson, Title I coordinator family services for Danville Public Schools, said she was impressed with the classroom technology at Magna Vista and that “all students are highly engaged.”

After the stop at Magna Vista, the attendees traveled to Rich Acres Elementary to see iPads in action.

One of the classes visited was that of second-grade teacher Leslie Howell, whose students were doing assignments on iPads. “I do think it’s helpful,” Howell said of the iPad technology.

For instance, with the educational games on iPads, students who might not understand a math concept might get it “like that,” she said as she snapped her fingers.

Acquiring technology skills helps lay a foundation for student success, she added.

“I am super impressed (by students’) ability to stay on task, even in groups, and stay focused,” said Lynn Yates, an instructional technology resource teacher in Montgomery County Public Schools. Yates was one of the visitors to Howell’s class.

Yates said Montgomery County Schools is looking to expand its use of iPads in the classroom. “It’s difficult to conceptualize,” she said. “To see teachers actually using it successfully is what we need to see more of.”

Another visitor in Howell’s classroom, Catiia Greene, Title I coordinator for Danville Public Schools, also said she was “very impressed.” She said Danville Public Schools is implementing a lot of things HCPS has done.

During a discussion after the classroom visits, Rich Acres Principal Elizabeth Hussey said there is professional development on technology both divisionwide and at the school. She added that parents and students know their responsibilities with respect to the iPads before students are allowed to take them home, and if they break the rules they can lose their privileges.

“I do think it has raised our test scores” because of iPad apps for the classroom, she said.

Edward Newsome, superintendent of Danville Public Schools, called the event “a phenomenal visit.” He said Danville schools aim to expand use of iPads.

He wants the division to build a partnership with HCPS, “which has worked out the kinks,” he said.

In the future, Copenhaver said, the division plans to “continue to add a grade level of iPads each year through eighth grade; implement BYOT (bring your own technology) in high school; begin 1:1 laptop initiative in high schools; implement digital portfolios for students with projects through problem-based learning; and continue with New Tech” (adding students at Magna Vista and initiating an academy at Bassett High School).


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