Wellington High School’s Exceptional Student Education Department was the recent recipient of 10 new iPads that will enhance the classroom learning experience for students with special needs.
The new tablets were purchased with help from the Jacobs Family Foundation of Wellington. The donation will allow each individual student to work with an iPad during classroom activities.
Katie Jacobs Robinson visited WHS on Wednesday, Jan. 31 to see how ESE teachers and students utilize the new technology.
“The Wellington community has been a part of our life for 30 to 40 years, so it’s really nice to be able to give back to the community,” Robinson said. “To get to see it in action today was really wonderful.”
ESE teacher Valerie Attalah quizzed her students on biology using the app Kahoot. Each student had an iPad at his or her desk. Attalah told them all to sign in and choose their username to begin.
“When I teach autistic students, some of it is auditory; some are visual, some of them are competitive; and when they use these kinds of equipment, it helps them to retain the information,” Attalah said. “When they see it and they play the game, they can make a link in their brain that helps them retain the information, and that is such a positive learning environment for my students.”
Attalah read multiple-choice questions to the students, and they all answered almost immediately. The number of students who answered correctly appears on the projector, and it’s on to the next question.
“It kind of creates a personal relationship between the students and the teacher for the idea of playing games and being able to have fun,” Attalah said. “And it’s not only the teacher-student-professional relationship. It creates a relation with them, and this is one of the things that has a very positive effect on the behavior of the student and [his or her] capabilities in the classroom.”
Attalah uses different educational applications for all subjects of learning. With some programs, parents are able to see student progress and grades online, making it easier to show them where their children are in their classroom activities. This helps ensure that parents see results and reduces the need to send students home with paperwork, which has the potential to get lost and not be seen.
“I’m glad I was able to show it and share it with the donors to see how useful their donation was to our department,” Attalah said.
Palm Beach County School Board Member Marcia Andrews interacted with the students and the tablets during Wednesday’s visit. She believes in the enhancement that learning technology provides all students in the classroom.
“It’s exciting to see them do all of the different pieces through technology, through the assistance of their teacher, and the excitement for them to have their own iPads today and work through their lessons accordingly,” Andrews said.
She said the school district focuses on what technology provides in the institutions throughout the county.
“We’re working on district accreditation this week,” Andrews said. “One of the questions they ask is how this technology actually enhances education or takes it to another level… It’s another mode of making sure our children understand the content presented to them in a way that makes it fun and exciting.”
Wellington Vice Mayor John McGovern and Councilwoman Tanya Siskind visited during class as well. They both interacted with the students and thanked the foundation for making the donation.
“I think the fact that these students have the opportunity to have this technology on an individual basis and be able to use it each day… makes such a difference in their lives,” McGovern said. “It gives them the ability to learn at their pace, and it allows for the programs to be tailored to their individual needs, which is spectacular for their education process.”
Siskind said it continues to be important for ESE students to get hands-on learning experience with technology in the classroom.
“Everything is done on the computers and the iPads. These kids need to know that technology as well,” Siskind said. “It’s probably even more important for them. It opens up their world a lot, so it’s great to give them all the same technology.”
Arlene Einhorn, a paraprofessional in the special education department, shared similar sentiments about the importance of additional technology in the classroom.
“Technology is wonderful. It’s not because I am very computer-literate but because I can see how the world opens up to all these students,” Einhorn said. “Those who don’t speak or communicate can open up a computer, and the world is theirs.”
Einhorn agreed that the new iPads will change the learning environment for ESE students and the ability for them to learn in the classroom.
“This way, they can each work on the same lesson but at their own level,” Einhorn said. “They can keep up without struggling.”
ESE teacher Barbara Incandela agreed that the new iPads will be a real benefit in the classroom.
“I’m super-grateful that the foundation was able to give us these iPads, and it has provided us with the opportunity to individualize our instruction and enrich our instruction every class,” Incandela said.
Robinson worked as a teacher during her time living in California and Massachusetts. Education has always been of great importance to her and her family.
“Giving to a school and particularly a program like that is just essential, and it was a wonderful gift, and we were so happy to do it,” Robinson said. “The tablets were great. It’s something that I hadn’t really thought about being so used in such a great way, and the kids were so engaged and learning so much, so it was really wonderful.”
To learn more about the Jacobs Family Foundation of Wellington, visit www.jffwellington.org.