Earlier this year, the Rollingstone community made a commitment, coming together with a pledge that $40,000 would be raised for the purchase of iPads for every child at Rollingstone Community School.
Now the goal has been met, and the school is poised to usher in a new era of technology. They call it "21st Century Learning." Community leaders point out that studies have shown that iPads or similar technology in the classroom can help raise test scores, and engage students with opportunities that outpace any textbook.
Want to play the piano without a piano? There's an iPad application for that. Want to identify a plant based on the intricacies of its leaves, without lugging an encyclopedia on your hike, or turn learning prime numbers or multiplication into the kind of game you can't put down? There are apps for that, too.
"The possibilities are just really unlimited," said Rollingstone second grade teacher Pam Lica, one of many teachers at the school who spent time over the summer learning about how the iPad has been used in other schools and exploring the device's many uses.
Rollingstone Community School teachers and staff, along with community members, announced last week that the $40,000 for the iPad program had been raised, and presented an oversized check to the school board for the project.
"The money was raised for a total community effort," said Rollingstone City Council member Paul Seppa. The funds were raised through large donations from businesses and organizations, as well as through community fundraising events such as French toast meals. He said during one such feast, they ran out of bread for French toast several times because the fundraiser was so well attended. After several runs for more bread, they just had to close up shop, he said.
Several Dist. 861 school board members congratulated and thanked the group for the work to raise the money for the program, that could serve as a pilot program to test the concept for other district schools.
"I just want to commend you guys," said school board member Ben Baratto. "I think everybody did a good job."
Board member Mohamed Elhindi agreed, saying that the community efforts were huge. At the same time, said Elhindi, the school district has repeatedly gone back to the community for more funding for programs, and he issued a challenge to the board: let's try to prioritize these kinds of projects, so we don't have to go back to the public time and time again for more.
Throughout the iPad fundraising, board member Steve Schild had objected to planning and funding this kind of technology upgrade at a particular school in the fashion used by the Rollingstone community. He has said in the past that technology upgrades should be planned on a district-wide basis, not school-by-school. Last week, while Schild congratulated the work of the Rollingstone Community School supporters, he voiced his discomfort with the way the project moved ahead: "As I've said before, I don't think this is the best way to choose instructional technology, nor the way to fund it."