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Bordentown school district receives grant to fund tablet devices

The Bordentown Regional School District was provided with the opportunity to purchase new learning devices for students and teachers thanks in part to a recent grant that the district received.

It was announced at the Bordentown school board meeting on July 17 that the district was the recipient of grant money from the Haines Family Foundation’s “Improving Elementary Education Through Technology” program.

The foundation is affiliated with Pine Island Cranberry Company and aims to donate to worthy causes in Burlington County, especially education-related.

The grant, which was facilitated through the Bordentown Regional School District Education Foundation, will implement its second annual installment of $41,000. A total of $127,000 is expected over the three-year grant period, which began in 2018-19.

Michael Brennan, a teacher in the district for approximately 20 years, has served in one of the foremost roles to facilitate and assist the district in receiving grant monies from the Haines Family Foundation, a partnership that began six years ago.

After Brennan had reached out to Holly Haines, president of the foundation, for a class set of tablet devices for his AP U.S. History students, the foundation granted money for the purchase of iPads for his students. The Bordentown school district has had an ongoing relationship with the foundation since.

Over the past six years, the district has received 298 total iPads; 60 tablets for teacher use and 238 tablets for student use. The grant has also helped fund the purchase of 195 total Chromebooks; 20 tablets for teacher use and 175 tablets for students use.

With this next installment of the grant, Brennan explained that the aim is to provide tablets to Bordentown school teachers and students at Peter Muschal School, Mac Farland Intermediate School and Clara Barton Elementary School.

In an effort to educate and familiarize students at a young age with tablet devices, Brennan said he felt their knowledge of this technology is more prominent than ever.

“Technology is not the future. It’s the present,” Brennan said. “There are a lot of fads in education that are really hesitant to dump money into technology, but I think we are at a point where we are never going to live in a world where most people aren’t working on an internet connected device at any time. That’s where we go for information.

“The world of education has changed dramatically. Information in itself is a commodity. Gone are the days where you are having kids memorize state capitals and all of that because that information is readily available to anyone, anywhere, at any time. The key for education now is ‘application.’ We all have this information, but what are we going to do with it?” Brennan said.

The Bordentown teacher said that from his experience, the devices allow students to become more “in charge” of their learning practices, and said that the devices are pivotal in exercises such as independent research, cooperative work in small groups, posting work online and uploading video content.

Brennan explained  that this helps students put together a digital portfolio at a young age.

“Digital literacy is not kind of important,” he said. “It’s an absolute must in today’s society, and we are fortunate through this grant that we are able to give kids a lot of experience in working with these devices and hopefully when they leave district, they will feel comfortable using it in their education.”

Although the school district does invest in tablet devices through their own funding, Brennan said the grant monies dedicated to help purchase additional devices helps make the district more competitive with others in the area operating on higher budgets.

Along with the purchase of the tablets, Brennan reported that the grant money is also dedicated toward training sessions for teachers to learn how to facilitate the technology in their classrooms. Brennan said that rather than any reluctance toward the devices, a majority of the district’s teachers have embraced this new educational opportunity.

“Teachers working with technology is a good part of it too,” he said. “A key part of the grant goes toward funding education for teachers on how to use it for professional development. [I give] credit to a lot of the teachers who have been teaching a certain way for 15 to 25 years and recognize that this is the direction that education is going […] They have been real great about it.”

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