By Alex Lippa
After going into classrooms and seeing precious time wasted by students trying unsuccessfully to log on to the Internet, Superintendent James Scully decided it was time to upgrade their technology.
The new iSchool computer lab has arrived at Haverhill High school, the first phase in the technology upgrade.
"I saw teachers and students getting frustrated because they don't have Internet," Scully said. "I sat down with the mayor and decided that we needed to do the right thing for our schools."
The city borrowed nearly $1 million for a new Apple technology to be available throughout the school system. It allowed for the purchase of 200 MacBook Air laptops, 150 iPads and 142 Poly Vision whiteboards to use at Haverhill High. Each classroom teacher will be equipped with MacBook Airs and the remainder of the laptops and iPads will be available for students on a rotating basis.
The upgrades come after the city received a disappointing review from the New England Association of Schools and Colleges following its last visit to the high school. The report noted the school was falling behind in using technology in the classroom.
Scully and Mayor James Fiorentini introduced the iSchool computer labat the high school on Friday.
Haverhill High Principal Bernie Nangle hopes the recent improvements will lead to more use of the Apple products in the school.
"We're looking towards every student having a (laptop) at some point in time," Nangle said. "That way they could put their textbooks on the laptops and teachers can use it for their lesson plans. It would make things much, much better."
For the immediate future, the iSchool will be used to train teachers. The teachers received their laptops last month and signed up for 245 training lessons during their free periods at school. Teachers will also be trained to use the Poly Vision white boards. They are interactive and teachers can draw on them, save screens and replicate the screen on their computers. A white board will be installed in each classroom during the summer.
The iSchool is also an Apple authorized repair center, and it will begin to have student workers next year.
"We are going to start next fall with a team of students and we are going to teach students how to train teachers on the new technology, as well as some basic computer repair." said Timothy DiFalco, a member of the school district's technology team. "The kids who are on the team will be able to get some type of course credit for their help."
Scully said he came up with the idea of a repair center after walking around malls and seeing how well the Apple stores operate.
"This right here is our version of an Apple store," he said. "Instead of teachers having to wait days and days for help there, they can come down (to the iSchool) to get help."
The upgrades are also a welcome change for students who never expected Haverhill High to ever have something like this.
"It's amazing that more and more people are actually going to have opportunities to use something like this," said Grace Stanton, president of the freshman class.
While Haverhill High will be fully equipped with the Apple technology by the beginning of the next scholl year, Scully said the next step is to upgrade the technology in the rest of the school system. He said he hopes that by the end of the 2013-2014 school year, all middle schools and elementary schools will have the same technology as the high school.
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