L AHAINA - Tap, tap... who's there? The future, and you best open up.
Walking in some of Sacred Hearts School's classrooms, one might find students fixated on an iPad tablet. But thankfully, no one is partaking in a spirited session of Angry Birds or Fruit Ninja. The school has just begun to integrate what is called tablet technology with its curriculum, starting with the third and fourth grade classes.
The results have been positive so far. Studies have shown that students made considerable improvements in various subjects using specially developed educational applications. For example, discussing the solar system with the aid of the Star Walk app means having an interactive and high-definition astronomy guide with real-time capabilities. The device even maps out the sky from the user's location, making lessons visually connect with the third-graders.
Sacred Hearts School third- and fourth-graders proudly display the new iPads that were purchased with donations.
"It has been very engaging," said third grade teacher Katie Tursi Lee. She supports the technology to enhance learning and supplement her students' fundamental skills. When asked if she thought this could possibly ease much of a classroom's paperwork, she insists, "Pen to paper is still most important."
Currently, both third and fourth grade classes are exploring apps to practice basic math and phonics. Whether they are solving problems on the tablet or deriving words from a series of random letters, the exercises keep tabs of the students' scores and times, thus helping the teacher track their progress. The fourth-graders are experimenting with an after-school resource, www.todaysmeet.com, where they can post class-specific questions or discuss notes in a temporary, virtual space.
"We try to focus on the best apps," said fourth grade teacher Susie Slear. "A lot of apps can give students hands-on, virtual experiences to learn new concepts. It's also helping them be more resourceful with problem solving. They can still use the old-fashioned ways, and they can also use this. It's an encyclopedia and a calculator. And we've only started. We are exploring on how they can use it more for production."
State Representative and Sacred Hearts alumnus Angus McKelvey was instrumental to raising the much-needed funds for the iPads.
"He has a great love for our school and is looking to improve education for all of the keiki in Lahaina," shared Joanna Stockham, the school's development director.
"He stood up and did the pitch during our live auction at the Pioneer Inn last spring and raised $9,500." The seed money was supplemented with a significant donation from Hawaiian Telcom that enabled the school to acquire 22 iPads and a secure charging cart.
McKelvey, whose family's legacy includes the Sugar Cane Train, Kaanapali Resort and LahainaTown Action Committee, has long been part of Sacred Hearts' rich history. When McKelvey was only four years old, his mom, Joan McKelvey, spearheaded a massive fundraising effort to build the school back after it was completely destroyed by fire in 1971.
Now the younger McKelvey is intent in preparing the school for Hawaii's tech-savvy future.
"The tablet technology is an incredible advancement for kids to learn in a much more intrinsic way," said McKelvey. "The reason why we chose the iPad is because of the robust development that they have for education and curriculum, as well as the technical support and the wide variety of programs that are available for free or at minimum cost to educators with their studies."
The iPads have also been a helpful tool for self-expression for the timid ones, even if sock puppets are involved. To enhance a student's ability to grasp new concepts, the sock puppet app encourages learning through storytelling. Delving into the life cycle of a plant, the-third graders were asked to utilize the app to create the stage, design the puppet and record their own voice explaining what they have learned.
While the school has gained initial momentum on implementing this technology, it is determined to provide the higher grades with these tablets as well. Those who are interested in supporting Sacred Hearts School's efforts can call (808) 661-4720.