For the first time in Massachusetts, a special education school is equipping each of its students with a personal iPad. Acknowledging that many public school pupils have been receiving the device for a few years, Dr. Charles P. Conroy, the executive director of the Doctor Franklin Perkins School, pointed to the school’s objective of combining inspired teaching with the latest technology. “It’s an ambitious move to put a tablet into the hands of every Perkins student, and we believe we’re the first special education school in the state to act on the teaching value it offers,” he said.
According to Director of Education, David A. Cook, Grade 1 students will “visit” an active volcano in Hawaii and Grade 10 students will dissect a frog in a virtual laboratory. During art class, students will be guided through a tour of the Louvre by their own art instructor. “Students are completely engaged by the interactive, participatory style of learning offered by tablet technology rather than a ‘feeding’ of information,” remarked Cook. Cook explained that the iPad initiative furthers the school’s goal of providing progressive technology across the campus and within the Perkins curriculum, where SMART Board technology has been embraced for the last few years.
“Optimal education in the 21st Century classroom includes multimedia curricula,” said Cook, “and our focus at Perkins is on providing students with the supports and opportunities that will help build academic confidence and advance students in their schooling so that they can successfully move back to a traditional classroom setting and excel in areas and fields that support their strengths and skills.”
In anticipation of the iPad roll-out, the entire campus became wireless accessible. Students and staff are now able to access educational programs and thousands of books throughout all buildings and residences and across the campus grounds, regardless of where an activity or lesson may take them. “Being outside, surrounded by nature is especially conducive to students with attention deficits,” noted Cook “so it’s exciting to have the ability to take the classroom outdoors and into the natural environment when we can.”
Additional advantages of the iPad initiative include the direct visual contact boys and girls who board at Perkins are able to maintain with their families (who can live up to three hours away)through applications such as Skype and Facetime. There is also the potential for personalized, supplemental instruction outside of school. One elementary student improved his penmanship by practicing with a stylus and writing application on his iPad. Perkins students began using the iPads the week of September 9, 2013.
Perkins is committed to the education, healthy development and optimal treatment of mental illness and behavioral disorders in children and adolescents. The agency provides residential and day treatment services to over 500 children and families and has provided intensive support to children with a variety of challenges since 1896. Perkins also operates a community mental health clinic, a therapeutic horsemanship program, a child development (day care) center, and a residential and vocational program for adults with special needs. Perkins is accredited by the Joint Commission and the New England Association of Schools and Colleges. More information about Perkins can be found at www.perkinsprograms.org.