West-Mont Christian Moving To 1-To-1 Computing Plan

POTTSTOWN PA – West-Mont Christian Academy, the independent Christian-based school for children in grades K-12 at 873 S. Hanover St., has decided its secondary students will benefit from having technology daily at their fingertips and last Tuesday (Feb. 25, 2014) announced it would launch a one-to-one classroom computing initiative beginning in September.

West-Mont Christian Moving To 1-To-1 Computing Plan

West-Mont Christian’s high school building in warmer weather

The school, in a six-page description of its program, said each of its high school (grades 9-12) students “will be encouraged, but not required, to have a parent-provided (Apple-brand) iPad 2, 3, 4, or Mini (computer tablet) for daily classroom use during the 2014-2015 academic year. WCA will gradually integrate iPad use into the entire high school curriculum,” it said.

The exception is for students in the academy’s chemistry, trigonometry, AP Literature, and AP Environmental Science classes; devices will be needed in those courses.

Students in its middle school grades (6-8) will be able to use similar mobile devices beginning in January 2015, West-Mont Christian added, but primarily for “for organizational and study skills benefits.” The “middle school curriculum will not be fully integrated with iPad technology” next year, it added.

The academy’s statement arrives as officials in the Pottsgrove School District debate the merits and costs of creating its own one-to-one program at a taxpayer-supported cost of at least $200,000 annually. Pottsgrove’s proposed program would be significantly different in two ways: the district would buy a device for each student in both the high and middle schools, and curriculum-related changes would begin in many courses in September.

West-Mont Christian aims to achieve 17 separate goals for students and teachers by bringing the tablets into its classrooms and making them part of its daily educational experience. It views introducing the devices as “creativity and productivity tools (students) will need in college and the workforce,” while extending its instructors’ abilities to expand and deliver educational material in a timely and organized manner.

As a result, its statement said, the academy also will rely extensively on an online and publicly available classroom environment called Moodle. Its Moodle sites are expected to contain interactive lessons, assignments and homework in a “structured learning system” that allows teachers to blend traditional classroom learning with technology’s benefits.

West-Mont Christian’s paper shows the types of Apple devices it hopes students will carry, which range in price from about $300 to $550 each. It advocates parent purchase of the devices, according to West-Mont Christian teacher Mark Moore, because it avoids an “up-front cost” for the school, and encourages personal responsibility in properly caring for and protecting them, he said.

To accommodate the wireless bandwidth needed to meet the computing demands of potentially hundreds of devices over time, Moore said West-Mont Christian also was investing in new network infrastructure within its school building. For home use, an informal survey conducted by the academy shows that 99 percent of its families already have either wireless Internet capabilities or cellular carrier coverage to power the devices.

To ensure its students’ devices are not misused for non-academic purposes during the school day, the academy intends to install software on each device that limits its use while on campus. Parents will be offered a variety of options that permit potentially different use of the devices, from highly restricted to unrestricted modes, at home. A monitoring service employed by the academy only on campus will automatically detect if the software restrictions have been removed.

Other costs are likely to accompany its program, West-Mont Christian acknowledged. It would require a list of applications to be purchased and downloaded from Apple’s store at a price of about $80 per family. However, the apps represent a one-time expense and can be used on several devices for several students at no extra charge, it said.

Some digital books may also be required, available both free and at a cost. West-Mont Christian said it would supply its iPad users with electronic textbooks at no charge. For those without devices, printed copies of the texts and other needed books would be available.

Moore said West-Mont Christian has researched facets of its program for almost a year.

Pottsgrove is still conducting its research with visits to several schools and interviews with users and teachers. The district already makes extensive use of Moodle. Its own decision on whether or not to implement one-to-one computing is not expected until mid-year, when the district budget is completed.

Related to area schools’ one-to-one technology: