Lincoln Pius X High School is getting iPads into the hands of every student this fall, thanks to an influx of coronavirus relief dollars.
The new individual device initiative at Lincoln’s only Catholic High School — which began classes on Tuesday — will allow teachers to more quickly analyze test scores and other data while allowing students to turn in assignments and check classes from home, Principal Terry Kathol said.
“It provides another tool for (teachers) to be able to engage students,” he said.
Each student will be equipped with a tablet that they will keep while at Pius X. The school has purchased more than 1,100 devices over the past year or so for rollout this fall.
The Diocese of Lincoln is using about $1.5 million from the Governor’s Emergency Education Relief Fund, a pool of virus dollars schools can tap into to bridge the digital divide in the classroom.
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iPads have a life cycle of about four years, said the Reverend Matthew Zimmer, director of education technology for the Diocese of Lincoln, and Pius X expects families to pay a small fee to replace the devices later.
Two high schools elsewhere in the diocese — Hastings St. Cecilia and Lourdes Central Catholic in the Nebraska city — already had an individual curriculum in place, but Pius X was obviously the largest school to integrate, Zimmer said.
Some of the Catholic K-8 schools in the diocese have also used the funding to purchase a “significant” number of devices, but not all are going on an individual route.
“One of the realities of technology is that you want to use it appropriately,” Zimmer said.
For years, Lincoln Public Schools has had an individual program to get Chromebook laptops into the hands of students. Last fall, kindergartens and first graders became the last students to get their own Chromebooks.
Lincoln Christian, a private K-12 school in southeast Lincoln, has also implemented an individual Chromebook program during the pandemic.
Changes in education accelerated by COVID have put pressure on the Diocese to put more devices in the classroom.
“What we’re hearing from publishers is that more and more textbooks are going the digital route,” Zimmer said.
At Pius X, students will be able to access a variety of educational apps, including Canvas, a learning management system where they can take tests, watch lessons, and turn in assignments.
“If a student is absent from class, they can go into Canvas and see what they missed,” Kathol said.
Technology is not necessarily meant to replace old ways of learning, Kathol stressed.
“We by no means expect technology to be our only tool to use,” he said. “It’s kind of another option that (teachers) have when they’re developing lessons.”
LPS officials have explored using federal relief money for stipends, but say the state has advised against it
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