Thanks to a grant from the Kittenbrink Foundation and PNC Charitable Trust, students at now have access to iPads and the hundreds of apps that can come with them, providing new tools that help all who are diagnosed on the autistic spectrum.
“I use it for speech therapy and it’s valuable for me because the program I am using has a self-monitoring aspect to it," said speech and language therapist Diane Bradley. “A child can record himself saying the target words, and then play it back to hear himself and see whether or not they are saying the sounds correctly. They can then rate themselves and see their progress—they enjoy that feedback.”
Pace School, located just behind the building on Greensburg Pike, now has 23 iPads provided throughout the building and recently had wireless installed on the property for just that purpose.
The school serves students who are facing behavioral or emotional challenges, as many of them have been diagnosed on the autistic spectrum.
The iPads were given to teachers who wrote successful proposals to the school's technology committee as to how they will be used in the classroom. They started implementing the new tool on Jan. 2.
The staff will continually share ideas and apps, while this summer they also will attend an iPad camp.
In just a few weeks, teachers have been amazed at how the iPads have added to the students’ educational experiences.
“I have quickly learned just how valuable this will be in the classroom, including the fact that this helps with language skills, math, all of the academics and it’s a great way to engage students in the program,” Marlene Berncic, another Pace teacher, said. “When you’re doing individual instruction, this is another way to help manage your time, too. This is really going to be beneficial to our classroom.”
Interactive books are used, as students can press on certain words and watch animated characters on the screen. Other tools have helped students develop stronger skills in writing sentences. In one classroom, a student who once dreaded writing sentences now cannot wait to write a story because of a certain app—and that’s just two weeks in. Another program helps students to develop eye contact.
The iPad has also made a difference in the classroom already as compared to work on the computer.
“It’s much more mobile and much more interactive,” Berncic said. “On the computer, you wait for them to say whether an answer is right or wrong. On the iPad, it gives them a chance to go back and solve it with the individual child.”
Teacher Jennifer Mitts said the iPads also are an important component in keeping the students up to date in the classroom.
“It’s important because this is what all of the regular schools have available to them now, so now we get it in a school that is a private school,” Mitts said. “When they go back to a regular school, they have had the same exposure to technology.”
Most recently, Mitts read a traditional book to her students about Antarctica. Afterwards, she used the iPad to show them a video on YouTube about the continent.
“It’s also a good supplementary tool,” she said.
While the iPads have been in the classroom for a little less than a month, they have already made an impact in the community as well. The school also plans to apply for another grant this year that could bring even more of the gadgets into the classrooms as well.
“It’s bridging more gaps for the students,” Berncic said. “With the parents who have iPhones, we are also asking them to share their favorite programs with us so we can use them—it’s just bringing it all together.”