Angry Birds not allowed

District works to curtail games as middle school iPad program expands


Teachers, parents and students all agree that middle school students are playing too many games in class. Otherwise, the Rockville Centre School District’s iPad pilot program was a success that will be expanded next year.

At a meeting earlier this month, the Board of Education heard a presentation from Chris Pellettieri, assistant superintendent for curriculum and instruction, who heads the South Side Middle School iPad program. Pellettieri surveyed students, teachers and parents to see how they felt about the program, what they thought were its strengths and weaknesses and how it could be improved in coming years.

“I think we all are optimistic about the program,” Pellettieri said. “But again, baby steps. I have trepidation myself. I share parents’, teachers’ and even students’ concerns about putting this powerful tool in their hands in the middle school.”

The majority of those polled said they felt that the iPad program was good for students, although it had some flaws, the most significant of which was that students played games in class. It was a complaint voiced even by some students, and Pellettieri said that the district would address it next year.

“There are lots of concerns about gaming in school,” he said. “We’re thinking of having kids take a pledge to be responsible with their use in the building, which I think would be a help for students.”

Pellettieri said that the district was still looking into ways to address the problem. He said that Game Center — the built-in gaming app — would be removed from all of the iPads, and that the middle school was considering stricter policies about playing games during class. “This isn’t an entertainment purchase,” he said. “It’s an education purchase.”

There were 568 iPads distributed to sixth- and seventh-grade students and teachers. None were broken and only one was lost, off school grounds.

In 2014-15, the program will expand to include eighth grade, and another 253 iPads will be distributed in the middle school. The school will also strengthen its wireless Internet to make sure every student can get online while in the building.

Pellettieri said that the district is also addressing stability issues with eBackpack, the main software that students use to complete homework assignments, work together and share their work with teachers. Some students had problems during the year with lost work, or “eBackpack eating their homework,” Pellettieri said.

“We have a great relationship with eBackpack,” he said. “They work with Mineola and Oceanside schools as well. They know that Nassau County schools are an important customer. They’re working with us, and it’s become less and less glitchy.”