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Leann McCormack, principal of St. Joseph’s School in Salem, shows off one of the 17 new iPads to be used this fall as part of the recently launched technology program. McCormack was hired as the school’s new principal about a month ago and said she hopes to further expand the parochial school’s technology offerings in the coming years. (APRIL GUILMET/Union Leader Correspondent)

Salem school's students, teachers getting new iPads

SALEM — As incoming St. Joseph Regional Catholic School eighth graders prepare to head back to school later this month, they’ll likely be stocking up on fewer notepads and textbooks.

Thanks to a recent donation from the Bishop Peterson Knights of Columbus Council 4442, all 17 members of this year’s eighth grade class, along with their teachers, will be presented with new iPads.

Just barely a month into her new position, Principal Leann McCormack was tasked with the program launch.

“Right after she started, she was charged with this very big event for our school community,” said Lynn Tabiatnejad, one of the school’s technology teachers.

According to Tabiatnejad, the recent addition of iPads means St. Joseph’s will be the first and only middle school in the area to integrate a one-on-one iPad program into all of its eighth grade classes.

But school officials felt it was a necessary step in keeping with the changing times, especially since many area high schools offer iPad programs to incoming freshmen.

“Historically, our eighth graders have always graduated with a solid academic foundation and great study skills,” Tabiatnejad said. “But when this year’s class graduates, they will also have one solid year of iPad integration experience under their belts as well.”

McCormack, a longtime teacher at Dunbarton Elementary School, said she’s excited about what the coming year — her first one as a principal — will bring.

“Right now, every single teacher here is working on this program,” she said. “Eventually, we’d love to see the iPads replace some of the textbooks altogether. Really, the possibilities are endless.”

Tabiatnejad agreed.

“It will definitely end up replacing backpacks,” she said with a laugh.

Keeping up with technology is something the St. Joseph’s community already prides itself in.

Several years ago, Smart Boards were installed in each classroom, and these days, blogging and building websites is emphasized equally along with reading, writing and arithmetic.

Once the initial iPad launch is complete, school officials may consider expanding the program to accommodate seventh graders as well.

Currently around 120 students attend St. Joseph’s, a parochial school for children ranging from preschoolers through eighth grade.

Another benefit to using iPads is enhanced communication — both with students and with parents.

“This way, the children and their parents can have constant access to assignments, to grading,” McCormack said. “Parents will no longer have to wait until parents’ night or for progress reports to finding out how their children are doing. It’s all about real time.”

A special parent meeting will be held shortly before the first day of school in late August to establish a few ground rules for proper iPad use.

While each iPad will be loaded with various apps and materials, there are no games on the gadgets, and for good reason.

“We’re removing that temptation right from the beginning,” McCormack said. “The idea is for them to understand this isn’t just a toy, this is an important learning tool.”

“There really is a technical revolution happening in schools these days,” Tabiatnejad added. “It’s not change for change’s sake, it’s about finding the right tool to enhance the work flow process of important jobs — in this case teaching.”

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