St. Genevieve earns Apple Distinguished School honors for teaching and learning methods that nurture ‘mobile, collaborative and creative’ students.

Five-year-old kindergartners in Panorama City are learning that ‘there’s an app for that’ as they use iPad tablet computers along with the rest of the student body at St. Genevieve School, honored as an Apple Distinguished School this week on Valentine’s Day. 

In just 18 months, since St. Genevieve decided to embark on a pilot iPad program in its middle school, it has graduated to all-school deployment, enhancing learning with an array of digital tools that include Apple MacBook laptops that have been in use since 2006.

“Learning before computers was a lot less engaging --- I was limited in terms of what I could do with the students,” said David Lopez, St. Genevieve’s middle school literature teacher and technology coordinator. Now that students have access to computers during class, instruction is more standardized in presentation of text and Internet content, according to Lopez.

“I think the way you reach students is so different now,” said Amanda Allen, a St. Genevieve first grade teacher at the double grade school of 600 students. “In the past, the thinking was, ‘You keep videos out of the school’ because it was considered entertainment. We’re finally figuring out that we can harness students’ interest to our advantage for keeping them engaged and interested in class with digital technology.”

Both Lopez, 33, and Allen, 32, were keynote presenters at an iPad Open House at St. Genevieve Feb. 2 where they spoke of their success in using digital technology to a capacity crowd of 70 public, private and Catholic elementary and high school teachers. Since last April, when Sister of St. Joseph of Carondelet Teresa Lynch, St. Genevieve’s principal, opened up the school for iPad demonstration open houses, more than 15 Catholic schools have implemented the Apple tablet computer devices into their classes. 

As Lopez tells teachers, “The point of this device is to supplement teaching, not to supplant it.” He points out that St. Genevieve’s motto: “Where Tradition Meets Technology,” reflects the coexistence of traditional instructional methods with technologically-enhanced learning. 

To illustrate, he notes that among his 100 literature students with iPads, about 50-60 percent decided to buy a paperback copy of the book, “Hunger Games,” even though they could have gotten it cheaper as an e-book through the Amazon Kindle app for about $4. 

Both Lopez and Allen have seen student performance improve since inclusion of the tablet computers. In seventh grade, scores grew in reading and language among students using iPads, and, in first grade, students’ math scores improved significantly. Having the iPad available in the classroom for individual math practices extends the amount of time young children with short attention spans are able to study, said Allen.

“The technology is helping the children advance a lot quicker,” said Meri Janikian, a first grade assistant and mother of three St. Genevieve school children. She says the iPad has been very helpful when it comes to homework for her two older children in sixth and eighth grades.

“They seem to enjoy it more,” said Janikian. “With the advancement of the young generation using technology, I believe it’s something that’s more natural to them, compared to the way we learned and we studied. It’s really amazing how much more they’re being able to pick up and learn.”

“It’s helped me in many ways, showing in my ‘A’ and ‘B’ grades that I have improved with the iPad,” said Armonie Mendez, an eighth grader who was among members of the school’s digital arts club escorting visitors to classrooms during the Feb. 2 open house. 

“Having used iPads with the few children I have used it with thus far, I think it is a huge enhancement to learning,” said Wilma Plucinski, an open house visitor in Mendez’ group and technology coordinator at St. Paul the Apostle School in Westwood who is in the process of deploying 120 iPads at her school. “I’m looking forward to being in the classroom to help the teachers learn how to use the devices more.”

Judy Jacobs, information technology coordinator at St. Martin of Tours School in Brentwood whose instructors benefitted by a ‘day in the classroom’ iPad demonstration from St. Genevieve teachers, said use of their new iPads acquired this year has taken off.

“When the teachers saw it incorporated into the classroom and how St. Genevieve’s teachers used it in instruction, there was so much excitement, and the students were enthralled,” said Jacobs. “The first thing students say at car pool is: ‘We got to use the iPad today.’”

“I was struck by the variety of ways these products can be used,” said Dr. Colby Boysen, vice principal of academics at Bellarmine-Jefferson High School in Burbank attending the Feb. 2 open house. “It’s not just limited to the iPad. They were using iPods and MacBooks, and teachers were making creative use of projectors and apps.”

It’s all about exhibiting “best practice” qualities of a 21st century learning environment, says Apple about St. Genevieve, as one of its newly-designated Apple Distinguished Schools. St. Genevieve will receive a plaque and banner acknowledging its Apple Distinguished School status and an invitation to attend an Apple Professional Development workshop and leadership symposium. 

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