IPads impact Smithtown curriculum

Mary-Ann Cook, left, Amber Fantaci, Keri McMorrow, right, Mary-Ann Cook, left, Amber Fantaci, Keri McMorrow, right, all 9 years old, work on an iPad as at Branch Brook Elementary School in Smithtown. (Nov. 19, 2012) Photo Credit: Newsday/Ed Betz

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Fourth-grade students at Branch Brook Elementary School in Smithtown were armed with a new tool -- and new knowledge Monday. Using iPads in the school's library for the first time, they learned how a government is elected.

"It's a touch screen. You can research your facts while you're using it," said 9-year-old Christopher Hamblet, of Smithtown. "I think it's easier than using a book."

"If you have a big book and the words are really tiny," added Chanel Jaquez, 9, of Smithtown. "On the iPad, zoom in, and the words will get bigger."

Such user-friendly aspects were among several reasons the Smithtown Central School District has purchased 659 iPads since last winter, officials said.

"We see technology as one of the many tools students use to learn. It's not technology for technology's sake," said Maria Rianna, assistant superintendent of instruction and administration.

The move toward integrating iPads in education is "definitely a trend on Long Island," said Lisa Minicozzi, an early childhood special education professor at Adelphi University, referencing Roslyn, Mineola, North Shore and Babylon school districts.

Applications (or apps) such as the Proloquo 2 Go -- a text-to-speak device -- enable students with language deficits to communicate, said Minicozzi. "They're customizable and can meet individual student needs," she said.

From January through June of this year, Apple sold more than two iPads for every Mac desktop and laptop to K-12 customers nationwide, according to Apple.

This fall, 390 of the 659 tablets were dispersed throughout each of the Smithtown district's 13 schools, said John Nolan, director of information technology.

The district spent $398,000 in federal and state grants, as well as taxpayer money from the general fund's technology budget, on the iPads and corresponding accessories, he said.

The tablets are also used for special education and English-as-a-second-language programs, and for some administrators and Board of Education members, Rianna said.

The iPads are less expensive than laptops, have longer battery life and can be used for multiple purposes, Rianna said.

The iPad also "helps to keep us green," she said, citing a 557-page board of education agenda at the last board meeting that did not need to be copied.

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