Prince George’s County Public Schools

Technology helps drive the vision at four Title I middle schools.

Walk the halls of Buck Lodge Middle School near Washington, D.C., and you’ll meet students from nearby urban and rural communities, and from more than 60 countries including Cameroon, Guatemala and India. Walk into almost any classroom and you’ll see those students sharing a common experience — researching, collaborating and creating incredible content on iPad.

Buck Lodge Middle School is part of Prince George’s County Public Schools, one of the largest and most diverse districts in the United States. A large portion of the county’s 128,000 students are learning English as a second language, and almost two-thirds of them are from economically disadvantaged households.

“Students arrive with many different backgrounds and learning styles,” says Dr. Debra Mahone, Director of the Department of State and Federal Programs for Prince George’s County. “We face some of the same challenges that many large urban school districts face.”

To help improve teaching and learning at some of the most at-risk middle schools in Prince George’s County, the district’s teachers and administrators initiated a one-to-one iPad program at four Title I middle schools — Buck Lodge, William Wirt, Charles Carroll and Nicholas Orem. This initiative delivered professional development to teachers, increased access to technology in and out of the classroom, and provided every student and teacher with an iPad.

“What’s common among children, irrespective of what background, culture or country that they come from, is the ability to succeed if given an opportunity.”

— Dr. Debra Mahone, Director of Department of State and Federal Programs, Prince George’s County Public Schools

“What’s common among children, irrespective of what background, culture or country that they come from, is the ability to succeed if given an opportunity,” says Mahone.

Turning things around.

“When I started here, we were classified as a failing school,” says James T. Richardson, the principal at Buck Lodge, who came to the school five years ago to help teachers boost student performance across the board.

Dr. Mahone and representatives from the Title I program formulated a strategy to bring iPad into the middle schools to help change the learning environment. “We were able to develop a network around professional strategies, competencies and approaches,” Mahone says. “That was the single most significant thing that made a difference.”

Once that strategy was in place, the Title I office worked with Mr. Richardson and other principals to implement the program. “It was an opportunity to truly change the way we teach students, and truly change how students learn,” says Richardson. “And since then, what we’ve seen is transformation.”

Teachers now incorporate iPad into their curriculum — creating custom iTunes U courses, building digital libraries of learning materials and boosting engagement with interactive apps.

“The environment is electrified because kids are taking ownership of their own learning and are excited about what they’re doing. There’s a tremendous amount of engagement and excitement in the classroom.”

— James T. Richardson, Principal, Buck Lodge Middle School

Engaging with iPad.

At Buck Lodge, iPad helps seventh-grade math teacher Aiesha Stover show students how to connect abstract formulas with practical, hands-on knowledge.

Stover built an iTunes U course that walks students through a lesson about how to design and furnish their own virtual houses. Using apps like Numbers and Geometry Pro!, students can calculate square footage, measure perimeters and estimate the cost of materials as they build their projects room by room. Students can move around the classroom with iPad in hand, to understand the relative lengths of doors, windows and walls when building houses.

“I’m more the facilitator instead of the person standing in front of them talking,” says Stover. “They become the centre of attention.”

This iTunes U course has helped turn students once lukewarm about math into engaged, involved participants who can’t wait to share their dream homes with the whole class. “Math was a foreign language. But now students are able to understand the vocabulary and speak it fluently,” Stover says. “I love seeing that magical moment when a student who at first didn’t love math suddenly realizes that they actually do.”

Boosting creativity and confidence.

Eighth-grade science ESL teacher Benjamin Grace explains that iPad allows his students to explore the scientific process in new ways. “I want them to see that science is how the world works, and that they have opportunities to become biologists, chemists — and even work at NASA,” he says. “With iPad, they've been able to go beyond the textbook.”

Grace’s students can use the built-in camera on iPad to capture photos or record and edit video, and they can arrange text and images into formatted papers, presentations and posters. iPad also helps English language learners build communication skills and confidence. “It can be daunting to get up and talk in front of people, even if you're proficient in English,” Grace says. “Now students can take iPad home and film themselves speaking.” This exercise gives them practice, which helps students become more comfortable with public speaking. “Being able to practice on iPad has created a confidence that simply wasn’t there before,” says Grace.

“Schools involved in this initiative are outperforming similar schools in our county by double digits. In reading, we saw a 35 percent increase. In math, we saw more than double an increase in their performance.”

— Dr. Debra Mahone, Director of Department of State and Federal Programs, Prince George’s County Public Schools

Learning new teaching skills.

Professional development is an important piece of Prince George’s County’s one-to-one iPad initiative. Teachers from across the county meet to share apps and teaching techniques for how to use iPad in the classroom.

“The teachers have found different approaches to delivering content and new ways to help children demonstrate their knowledge,” Mahone says. “This initiative has shown our educators other teaching options that really make a difference — reaching a greater number of students in a shorter period of time.”

Achieving remarkable results.

After only three years of providing iPad to students, these at-risk middle schools have been transformed. “The environment is electrified because kids are taking ownership of their own learning and are excited about what they’re doing. There’s a tremendous amount of engagement and excitement in the classroom,” says Richardson.

Across the four Title I middle schools, the results have been stellar. “Schools involved in this initiative are outperforming similar schools in our county by double digits,” says Dr. Mahone. “In reading, we saw a 35 percent increase. In math, we saw more than double an increase in their performance.”

Based on the success of this program, administrators are striving to expand the initiative to elementary schools throughout the district. “We’ll be able to apply many lessons learned and success stories from the one-to-one iPad initiative in our middle schools,” says Dr. Mahone. “And it’s only the beginning. The possibilities are endless with iPad.”

Snapshot

  • 128,000 students and 9000 educators
  • 75 of the district’s 209 schools are classified as Title I schools
  • www1.pgcps.org

Apps in use

Keynote

Create and share captivating educational presentations on iPad. Learn more about Keynote for iOS

Pages

Tap into a powerful yet simple word processor on iPad. Learn more about Pages for iOS

Numbers

Bring the power of spreadsheets into your classroom. Learn more about Numbers for iOS

iMovie

Create movie magic on iPad with tools to browse, edit and share HD video. Learn more about iMovie

iTunes U

Make your own courses on iTunes U, and deliver learning materials to students using the iTunes U app for iPad. Learn more about iTunes U