IPads: Integrating Technology In The Mountain State Education System

This is a published multimedia piece put together for my WVU capstone class.

See more work from myself & my colleagues here.

Since the 2012/2013 academic year, the students at Bishop Donahue High School, a Catholic high school in McMechen, W.Va., have been learning and doing class work on iPads. The students uses them in their everyday course work, take notes and take exams on the tablets.
In 2011, Principal Tom Wise of Bishop Donahue High in Marshal County implemented a 1:1 iPad program in the freshman class.

“I attended a meeting in Morgantown, the year the first iPad came out ever, because I was then the tech coordinator here. Right away my first thought was, ‘This is unbelievable, you can see the future of education changing fairly quickly,’” Wise said. “‘This kind of tech in kids’ hands would be such a great tool for them.’ And so I came back and talked to my principle at that point, and said, ‘This is fantastic stuff, we really need to look into this.’ ”


After its first trial year with freshmen in 2011, the policy was extended to the whole high school. All of Bishop Donahue’s 111 students and 14 faculty members have personal iPads to use for their educational instruction.

Bishop Donahue Science teacher Jarrett Kuhns instructs Riley DiLoretta ro the notes on the board as they do class assignments on their personal iPads. Photo by Laura Mapel
Bishop Donahue Science teacher Jarrett Kuhns instructs Riley DiLoretta about the notes on the board as she does class assignments on her personal iPad. Photo by Laura Mapel

“There were many difficulties. This is our third year, and when we started this in 2012/2013, we thought we knew what we were doing. We are one of the first schools to do it in this area, and we had some road bumps along the way,” Wise said. “Each time with the help of other people, and calling Apple, and talking to their techs, we overcame the hurdle and became very self-sufficient quickly.”

At a time when the state has been increasing attention on technology in classrooms and access to high-speed Internet, the school initiative is particularly noteworthy. Students at Bishop Donahue turn in almost all of their work digitally on tablets that require WiFi connections.

According to a 2012 nation-wide broadband study conducted by Technet, West Virginia ranks 35th in the nation in broadband adoption. They note that the state is making strides to overcome its disadvantages, namely difficult terrain and open rural spaces.

Another district utilizing technology is Raleigh County. All of the 31 schools and approximately 12,340 students grades Pre-K – 12, are able to say that nearly every student has an iPad for instructional purposes. Every student in grades 2-12 will be given an iPad 2, while students in kindergarten to first grade will share an iPad mini in pairs of two. Although students do not keep the iPads once they graduate, they are free to utilize them during their education there. According to a recent report by The Register Herald, 100 percent of high schools, 99 percent of elementary schools and 85 percent of middle school students have received iPads so far. Raleigh County is very close to achieving 100 percent iPad integration.

iPad use in the schools is costly. Bishop Donahue purchased the iPads for its trial year with the generous donations of their alumni and local businesses. The cost of the iPads for Bishop Donahue’s 1:1 program is now included in the tuition.

“Parents pay a tech fee each year,” said Wise. “For example, the freshman are paying $225 a year, and at the end of their four years they own the iPad. They take it with them.”

In Morgantown, North Elementary teacher, Kevin Kieffer, utilizes iPads in his classroom, but because of the cost he can only do so through donations and support from outside of the school. He recently purchased two iPads and uses them in group stations that rotate.

North Elementary School fourth grade teacher Kevin Kieffer instructs his students during class station rotations. Students Alex Tadros, Yashmith Pala, Anjali Monga, Kate Hawkins and Ayah Alomar look on as they learn from technology. Photo by Laura Mapel
North Elementary School fourth grade teacher Kevin Kieffer instructs his students during class station rotations. From left to right, students Yashmith Pala, Alex Tadros, Anjali Monga, Kate Hawkins and Ayah Al-Omar look on as they learn from technology. Photo by Laura Mapel

“We currently use them in reading stations and math stations,” Kieffer said. “It’s still somewhat new, and I’m the only fourth grade (teacher) so far that’s using it. I know that the rest of them are really interested in it, so we are sort of doing a trial run to see how it goes first.”

Counties in West Virginia may not be equal in their resources for technology but the state is looking forward to incorporate more technology in the classroom.

Another way to utilize technology in the classroom is to provide websites where students, parents and teachers alike can gain training and learn through educational modules.

The West Virginia Department of Education has implemented a web site initiative called, “Teach 21” and “Learn 21.” These links accessible through the BOE website, allow students, teachers and parents to be active in their learning and planning by offering users standards-based units, lesson plans, instructional guides and project-based learning modules. These all add up to achieve the state’s goal to “prepare students to be successful in tomorrow’s world.”

Michalene Mills, a RESA 6 (Regional Educational Service Agency) and former Follansbee Middle and Beech Bottom Primary School Principal, said she was introduced to technology in the classroom through her college educational classes.

“Students are naturally engaged with technology,” Mills said. “It brings the outside world into the classroom.”

Mills explained that the schools she was previously associated with accessed technology through the West Virginia Board of Education. Along with the support of the WV BOE, ArcelorMittal gave money to the school to be specifically used on technology. ArcelorMittal is a leader in the steel and mining worl, and strives to better communities as well as the education of future generations.

“My principal decided to buy all of the third and fourth grade teachers smart boards,” Mills said. “That opened up a whole new avenue of technology integration for me.”

At Bishop Donahue, students are finding their iPads have all kinds of benefits.

“It’s helping us a lot because instead of carrying around a bunch of books all we have to do is carry around one little thing, and all of our information is right there when we need it,” said Junior Holmes, a Bishop Donahue freshman.

Jerrett Kuhns, biology, anatomy, physiology and physical science teacher at Bishop Donahue, sees students arrive to school with their iPads full of every textbook and app needed for their classes.

“It’s a really good tool to get them used to college-based classes,” says Kuhns.


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