Students at Jewish day schools in the area have something else besides homework to look forward to as they return from summer vacation.
The Kohelet Foundation, an organization based in Narberth that aims to improve Jewish education, plans to provide iPads to nine schools, all members of the Jewish Day School Collaborative of Greater Philadelphia. This will be a pilot year for the SmartSchool Initiative.
"In a world increasingly reliant on technology, it is only fitting that students are trained to utilize platforms that support and enhance their academic growth and prepare them for the future," Holly Cohen, executive director of the Kohelet Foundation said in a news release.
The foundation purchased about 1,200 iPads at $379 each, the slightly discounted price at which Apple sells to schools, and each student from fifth through 12th grade will receive one, Cohen said.
Individual schools will distribute the devices as they see fit in the first few days, weeks and months of school. Teachers will attend training sessions to help them incorporate the technology into the classroom. The cost of the program thus far is $850,000, which includes the cost of the iPads, setting up the school to accommodate them and hiring an Apple educational professional to do the training.
Darin Katz, academic dean at the Jack M. Barrack Hebrew Academy, said he plans to use the iPad to help students with metric conversions in an honors chemistry class he teaches. He said conversions can be a struggle for some students, and like cursive handwriting, no longer as vital a skill.
Katz does not advocate eliminating the lessons entirely, but using a metric conversion application on the iPad will allow him to spend fewer days on teaching the formulas.
"I think iPads can enhance the learning experience, provided teachers have the appropriate professional development," Katz said.
The Kohelet Foundation's iPad initiative follows a trend of schools around the United States investing greater amounts in classroom technology. Education experts, however, have not reached a consensus on whether iPads, Smartboards and laptops actually improve students' performance.
In addition to Barrack, the other schools that will receive iPads are: Abrams Hebrew Academy; Kellman Brown Academy; Kohelet Yeshiva High School; Kosloff Torah Academy; Perelman Jewish Day School; Politz Day School of Cherry Hill; Politz Hebrew Academy; and Torah Academy of Greater Philadelphia.