In a commencement-like ceremony, 31 sixth-grade students at Our Lady’s Catholic Academy (OLCA), South Ozone Park – many of whom are first-generation Americans – exchanged their spiral-bound paper notebooks for a new Apple iPad2, for use in their classroom curriculum, the first program of its kind in a Queens Catholic elementary school.
The iPad2 program is funded in part by a grant from the Alive in Hope Foundation and Futures in Education, which supplied an initial $10,000. An additional $15,000 was provided by the school, as the result of increased enrollment and cost savings created by the discontinued use of paper textbooks.
“An iPad is something that our kids might never have the opportunity to have, simply because of their family’s economic reality. That shouldn’t prevent them from having access to that technology,” said Kevin Coyne, principal. “Education is the only equalizing force we have in our society.”
The iPad program was created by sixth-grade teacher Ricardo Sosa, who saw the potential for using the technology to engage his students and reduce costs associated with hard copy textbooks.
“Today’s students thrive on technology. There’s no better way to engage them in learning than by tapping into that natural inclination,” said Sosa, who will start by using the free book and library apps to assign homework. “We’ll start out in a place where they can get comfortable with the iPads. But I expect the students will help build the curriculum when they start to experiment on their own.”
Only three years old, OLCA was newly incorporated in 2009 and has seen enrollment increase 20% over that time, to 340 students from 272, leading enrollment trends across the diocese. 64% of students at OLCA are minority.
“Some of the parents who send their children to a diocesan school do so at great personal sacrifice, because they see the exceptional education their children will receive. We need to live up to that expectation,” said Priscilla Uy of Futures in Education. “For many of our students, school is a natural extension of their family. A nurturing environment allows them to excel.”