By EDWARD HUSAR
Herald-Whig Staff Writer
The Quincy Catholic Elementary Schools Foundation is undertaking a three-year campaign to raise more than $300,000 to provide tablet computers for every sixth-, seventh- and eighth-grader in Quincy's four Catholic elementary schools.
The campaign got off to an encouraging start when the foundation learned in January that it has been awarded a $52,000 challenge grant from the Marion Gardner Jackson charitable trust. The grant will cover one-half of the campaign's first-year goal, which calls for raising $104,000 to buy 120 tablet computers -- one for each student entering eighth grade next fall at St. Peter, St. Francis, Blessed Sacrament and St. Dominic elementary schools.
The money will be released later this year once the foundation raises $52,000 in matching funds. So far, $40,000 has been collected ahead of the April 1 target date, according to Paul Rittof, executive director of the foundation.
The campaign's second and third phases will require raising another $100,000 in each of the next two years to buy 100 additional tablet computers for all students entering seventh grade in the fall of 2015-16 and 100 tablet computers for all students entering sixth grade in 2016-17.
Some of the money raised will be used to buy several laptop computers and carts needed to synchronize, store and charge all the tablet devices. Some funding also will be used to train teachers in how to use the equipment in their classrooms.
The foundation recently launched the "Adopt an iPad" program to encourage donations from parishioners, parents and other supporters of the Catholic school system.
"Because the folks of Quincy are incredibly generous, I'm confident there are many supporters who will help us raise the remaining portion of the $52,000," Rittof said.
The goal in all this is to establish a "one to one" teaching and learning initiative that will put computing devices into the hands of each student during the school day.
Nan Wood, technology coordinator at St. Dominic School, said tablet computers are great for elementary schools. Not only are they easy and fun to use, but they also open up numerous learning opportunities in the classroom that might not be available otherwise.
"It's a huge benefit to have them," Wood said. "You've got all this information at your fingertips right now. If you've got a science lesson and you're studying the circulatory system, you can pull that up (on the tablet) and see an interactive video of the circulatory system at work. You're not just looking at a textbook."
Wood said tablet computers can help engage students in the learning process.
"I think it's huge," she said. "There's just so much more that we can do in the classroom when each kid has an iPad in (his or her) hand."
Some Catholic elementary schools already have a limited supply of tablet computers. At St. Dominic, a local family two years ago donated 19 iPads to the school. Those tablets are kept in the eighth-grade classroom for use throughout the school day, but the devices also are used by sixth- and seventh-graders who come to the room for science classes.
Several months ago, another local family donated 15 iPads for the school's third-graders to use. The family also donated a synch cart and laptop.
Even though St. Dominic already has tablet computers available to its eighth-graders, the school will benefit equally from the "Adopt an iPad" campaign. According to Rittof and Wood, St. Dominic's eighth-graders will get the latest version when the new devices are handed out to all four elementary schools next fall, and the school's existing tablet computers will be handed down to seventh-graders.
"That way, our eighth-graders get the same version of iPad as the other Catholic schools are getting," Wood said.
One big advantage of this program is that 92 percent of the students who graduate from Quincy's Catholic elementary students end up going to Quincy Notre Dame High School, which issues the tablet computers to all incoming freshmen.
"They're going to be so much more adept at using them," Rittof said.
Wood agreed. "We prepare our kids for Notre Dame, so all of our eighth-graders are going to be totally prepared when they go to Notre Dame as freshmen," she said.
QND teachers and technical staff will work with the elementary schools in suggesting certain applications that will make the eventual transition to QND even easier and more efficient, Rittof said.
More information about the "Adopt an iPad" campaign is available by calling Paul Rittof, executive director of the Quincy Catholic Elementary Schools Foundation, at 217-779-3157 or by visiting www.quincycatholicschools.com. Checks made out to the foundation can be mailed to 2223 St. Anthony Road, Quincy, IL 62305.