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Pen Argyl School District gets higher tech

By Brittany Foster, WFMZ.com Reporter
Published On: Feb 26 2013 08:56:08 PM CST

The Pen Argyl School Board heard two presentations on increased technology in the school district at its meeting on Tuesday night.

The first presentation was from seventh grade history teacher, Mr. Peck. Peck has introduced iPads to his classroom to engage students in the study of ancient history. The goal is to teach them that technology is "not just a toy, but a tool for learning," according to Peck.

He has seen increased interest from students and less behavioral problems in the classroom after beginning the iPad project. There are enough iPads in his class for each student and they were recently used for a project on the Stone Age.  Students were asked to create a Neolithic period museum using mixed genres. They were able to use the iPads to display artifacts from the time period, as well as making posters and writing essays.

Peck believes that the increased interest from students is based on the tactile nature of the iPads, which appeals to a broad range of students. When asked about the fragility of the iPads by the board, Peck admitted that two had been dropped, one of which he dropped but there had been no damage to either.  He shared student feedback, all of which commented on the "fun environment" of the iPads. Peck and the board were impressed that any student would call research fun, and the board appeared very supportive of the program.

The second presentation was given by a representative from the Sapphire software company. Pen Argyl School District is looking to change their student information system to a more modern and inclusive program. The Sapphire program integrates teacher's grade books, lesson plans, disciplinary referrals, health notes, attendance records, academic transcripts, IEP evaluations, a student portal and course registration. Sapphire is entirely web based and can be accessed anywhere by students, parents, teachers and administrators with their password.

 The content that it maintains is organized in a way to simplify reporting to the state and make that entire process digital. Sapphire presented a proposal for a three year contract that comes with unlimited customer support and 16 days of training for all district employees and administrators. The software company is currently in the development stages of a new module for the program, but was unable to confirm whether the update would result in an increased fee during the period of the contract. However, the representative assured the board of the reliability of Sapphire; the program didn't crash throughout Hurricane Sandy and is accessible as long as the user has internet and power. Sapphire has also never been hacked into from an outside source, and the presenter remains confident that hacking will not become a problem in the future.