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West Michigan elementary school to get new iPads for every student, teacher thanks to Apple grant

Posted at 10:05 PM, Oct 28, 2014
and last updated 2014-10-28 23:04:10-04

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. — 544 kids, and just 66 computers.

That's the situation students at Grand Rapids' Burton Elementary deal with on a daily basis. It's the reason Principal Ana Aleman-Putman says she's still beaming after learning Monday the school will receive free iPads for every single student and teacher in the building.

"Monday morning I got the email and I just burst into tears, I felt like this is fantastic, it was fabulous," Aleman-Putman said.

Burton Elementary was just one of two schools in Michigan to receive a grant from Apple that will supply each student and their teachers with iPads. The grant is part of Apple's $100 million ConnectED commitment, awarding the grant to just 114 schools in 29 other states.

Carpenter Elementary in Flint was the only other school in Michigan to receive the grant award.

“It’s a great thing, for our students it’s a game-changer in many ways," Aleman-Putman said. "They don’t have the access to technology that many children have."

Aleman-Putman, along with fellow staff member and 5th grade teacher Jen Magalski, received a letter with an invitation to apply for the grant back in June. Together they spent several hours over the summer completing the school's application. Eventually several Apple staff members visited the school in September before the school was finally chosen.

For both Aleman-Putman and Magalski, applying for the grant was an opportunity for their students they said couldn't be passed up.

“So much of our technology has to come from outside sources these days just because the funding isn’t there for top-notch technology for our kids," Magalski said. "We want to even the playing field for them.”

Apple selected schools for the grant based on need, focusing on schools in communities where more than 96 percent of the students are eligible for free or reduced lunches.

At Burton, that figure stands at 97 percent.

“For how many children this is going to impact, it’s really powerful," Magalski said.

Currently, given the limited technology for students at the school, Aleman-Putman says it proves challenging giving students enough exposure and time to practice on computers and other devices.

"It’s constant juggling of who is going to get on the computer, so they get on it maybe once or twice a week," she said.

Also, given the fact the student body is more than 85 percent Latino, Magalski says the new tech will provide ways to improve communication between teachers and parents.

“Many of our parents speak Spanish and sometimes it’s hard to communicate," she said. "It will be nice to use the apps where I can translate easily and quickly.”

Apple will begin rolling out the new technology to schools in early 2015. Not only will every student and teacher receive an iPad, teachers and administrators will also receive a Mac laptop and each classroom will get an Apple TV.

At Burton, Aleman-Putman says the devices will be used for math and science lessons, and to help students prepare for key tests, like the ACTs, all of which are now online. There will also be necessary restrictions and locks placed on devices to ensure students aren't on websites or playing games which are distracting or inappropriate during class time.

“Just opening up those doors for them and  exposing them to what’s possible out there as far as technology goes, who knows who could be sitting in these classrooms," she said. "We could have the next Steve Jobs or Tim Cook, we don’t know—but now we may get to.”

Burton will also have access to Apple’s tech support staff who will help with training and maintenance of the technology.

Seventy percent of the schools selected by Apple were elementary schools, 50 percent of the schools were considered to be "urban."

Keep up with FOX 17’s Josh Sidorowicz by emailing him at jsidorowicz@fox17online.com or following him on Twitter.