Educators say Apple’s $100M grants can transform schools

Company’s commitment to support ConnectEd initiative is a boon to underprivileged schools

apple-schoolsAs part of its $100 million commitment to President Obama’s ConnectED initiative, Apple will provide devices, software, and support to 114 schools across the nation.

The grants will go to schools with at least 96 percent of students eligible for free or reduced-price lunch. Ninety-two percent of students from the 114 recipient schools are minorities.

Each student will receive an iPad, and every teacher and administrator will receive an iPad and Mac. Each classroom will have Apple TV.

Apple representatives emphasized that their investment goes beyond products. Each school will work with an Apple Education team, which will ensure that IT and educational needs are met. Professional development around technology integration also will be provided.

(Next: How educators are reacting to the announcement)

In order to ensure that schools are able to access the free curriculum and content Apple is providing, the company is working with a number of partners, including Aerohive, AT&T, Education Networks of America, Sprint, Pearson, DreamBox Learning, and Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. For a full list of partners, see Apple’s announcement.

Ed-tech stakeholders and advocacy groups reacted to Apple’s announcement, saying it’s a promising step in the right direction.

“These grants are an important way to ensure that students everywhere are healthy, safe, engaged, supported and challenged.” said Nancy Gibson, ASCD president.

“We applaud Apple on its commitment to access and equity in public education. Their contribution goes far beyond dropping off devices and materials. This is a collaborative effort that brings together teachers, parents, community partners, and state leaders to think strategically about the best use of these digital learning tools and the types of support needed for success in classrooms,” said Melinda George, president of the National Commission on Teaching and America’s Future. “Not only will student learning be impacted in the schools, but these resources will also help entire communities.”

Three schools in Washington’s Wahluke School District are recipient schools.

Wahluke schools are in a heavily agricultural region where the predominantly farm worker population often shifts with the seasonal apple harvest.

“It is going to basically transform our schools,” an excited Superintendent Aaron Chavez said.

“We try to make connections and inspire them in hopes they embrace their education,” Chavez said. “This will inspire kids who may not have a lot at home to love coming to school.”

A small school on the southern tip of Alaska’s Kenai Peninsula also is among those schools receiving the grants.

Seventy-nine students attend Nanwalek’s K-12 school, according to principal Nancy Kleine.  “I announced it on the intercom and could hear the students screaming with delight,” Kleine wrote in an email.

At Nanwalek, the new technology will help the school develop a relevant, rigorous curriculum that allows for flexibility in student learning, according to Kleine. “It will also increase ways with which students have options to show their knowledge,” she wrote.

“Having this exciting technology will attract students to school and increase attendance. This type of learning is interactive and focused,” she wrote. “If we can engage kids, if we can help them want to come to school in Nanwalek, we can improve their learning, and hence their skills and ability to contribute,” she added.

Kenai Peninsula Borough School District Superintendent Steve Atwater called Nanwalek a “low-income community” that is largely subsistence-based and not used to being in the spotlight.

“To get that kind of attention, that kind of technology … (it’s) going to be a real boon for the students and the community,” Atwater said.

 This story contains original reporting from eSchool News, with additional material from the Yakima Herald-Republic (Yakima, Wash.)  and the Alaska Dispatch News (Anchorage, Alaska). Distributed by MCT Information Services.

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