$1 Million Grant Engaging Teachers, Learners, Devices

One of Just Two Michigan Schools to Receive this Technology

Principal Ana Aleman-Putman introduces the new technology at a reception with students, from left, Khamarie Sifika, Shannon Mccomb, Logan Jones, Tanayah Porter and Billy Sevilla

Students and teachers at Burton Elementary School have gotten a big boost in technology-aided learning, thanks to a $1 million grant of high-tech hardware and training from Apple. The K-5 school was one of only two in Michigan and 114 nationwide receiving the Apple grants under President Obama’s ConnectED initiative, which aims to give 99 percent of American students broadband access by 2018.

The company began rolling out the grant this semester with every teacher receiving a MacBook Air and iPad Mini 4, along with training from Apple technicians. In addition, students next school year will receive more than 540 iPad Air 2 devices, and classrooms will be equipped with 32 Apple TVs and 31 projectors.

Principal Ana Aleman-Putman called the grant “a game-changer for our staff and students,” which will serve to “move academic achievement forward, integrate technology into what we do every day and to get (students) ready for what they’re headed to as they go into college and career readiness.”

With a high percentage of English-language learners, and nearly 98 percent of students eligible for free and reduced lunch, Burton met Apple’s criteria for high-poverty schools with “visionary leadership.” Its ConnectED grants aim to reduce disparities in access to technology and knowledge, and to “open the vast potential of all the world’s future inventors, future dreamers and future leaders.”

Stasha Gilbert gets tips on using her MacBook Air from Apple technician Segun Oyesile
Stasha Gilbert gets tips on using her MacBook Air from Apple technician Segun Oyesile

New Possibilities for Engagement

Teachers promptly began learning how to use their new laptops and devices after a surprise presentation in early March. They immediately saw new possibilities for engaging students.

“It’s going to help me have learning right at their fingertips,” said Stasha Gilbert, who teaches a third/fourth-grade class with about 60 percent English-language learners. “When I talk about a volcano, I can click on a volcano. When I talk about the states of matter, I can show them exactly what I’m talking about.

“I feel excited,” Gilbert added. “I want my kids’ test scores to go up.”

Fellow teacher Mary McBride said it will help her find information in research and use academic learning games, as well as open up new horizons for many students.

“Some of them have never seen technology at all,” McBride said. “So to introduce them to the top right away – it’s fascinating.”

CONNECT

Burton Elementary School

Apple’s ConnectED program

President Obama’s ConnectED initiative

Charles Honey
Charles Honey is a freelance writer and former columnist for The Grand Rapids Press/ MLive.com. As a reporter for The Press from 1985 to 2009, his beats included Grand Rapids Public Schools, local colleges and education issues. Honey served as editor of The Press’ award-winning Religion section for 15 years. His freelance articles have appeared in Christianity Today magazine, Religion News Service and the Aquinas College alumni magazine. Read Charles' full bio.

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