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iPad donations are a game changer for Vista students

VISTA — Vista Innovation and Design Academy (VIDA) and Rancho Minerva Middle School were awarded iPads and 5G cellular connectivity for every student as two of eight national recipients of the Verizon/Digital Promise grant.

VIDA Principal Eric Chagala said the iPads are a game changer for the school’s 600-plus students. The computer tablets and Internet connectivity will be available to students 24/7 to research, brainstorm and communicate with teachers.

Chagala said Vista Unified School District has invested in providing superior WiFi access to every classroom.

The Verizon/Digital Promise grant allows technology to continue for students at home.

“Learning isn’t something that happens between two bells,” Chagala said. “It’s creating a more dynamic learning environment.”

Language arts and history teacher Dana Kellish has been an instructor for 26 years. He said the tablets are a long time coming. He added teaching technology and providing students continuous access to technology are two different things.

“It levels the playing field,” Kellish said. “It allows them to pursue their interests.”

Teachers have received ongoing training to work with iPads and utilize technology in their lessons since the middle school got word of the grant award last May.

On Oct. 3 the iPads were ready to check out to students.

“You should see their faces,” Kellish said.

For two days the VIDA auditorium was set up with stations for parent paperwork, iPad pickup and computer setup and training. Most stations were manned by middle school students.

Sixth-grade student and technology crewmember Eric Macieo downloaded software onto the iPads and gave fellow students a brief how-to lesson on computer operation basics at the final station.

Students checked out the iPads for the school year much like a library book.

The handheld computer tablets are encased in a durable, shock-resistant cover to prolong their life. Students remain responsible for care of the $730 devices, with replacement insurance available to families.

To ensure online safety, school district safety filters are installed in the iPads to keep students off of inappropriate sites. Responsible online citizenship is also taught in class.

The school’s obligation during the two-year grant period is to allow video documentation of the impact of iPads and connectivity on students’ learning. Chagala said documentation would be used to help guide the foundation in its future philanthropic efforts. The iPads remain the property of the school.

VIDA and Rancho Minerva Middle School are two of five middle schools in      the district.

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