Our View: Montlieu students excel with iPads

Apr. 09, 2014 @ 05:49 PM

When the Montlieu Academy of Technology began using iPads for classroom study instead of relying on traditional school materials such as textbooks and flip charts, the effort was regarded as a grand experiment.
There were numerous questions — most importantly, whether these new “gadgets” would produce positive educational results. Answer: a resounding yes.
On Tuesday, a UNC-Greensboro professor who has studied the Montlieu Academy model and its use of iPads told Guilford County Schools officials that teachers at the school have learned to incorporate the technology into their planning and execution of classroom work. Carl Lashley, associate professor of educational leadership and cultural foundations at UNCG, said that now “technology is not a gadget, but a tool to enhance learning.”
And the numbers show that learning at Montlieu Academy certainly has been enhanced.
Over the last three years, according to school district and state data, Montlieu’s test scores and evaluations have improved significantly. In comparisons to similar schools in the county, test scores for Montlieu students as a whole have jumped in double-digit percentages. Additionally, members of the community, as well as school officials, have seen a change in the attitude of students. They see more enthusiasm and eagerness to learn.
Some say the changed climate at the school stems from the enthusiasm of Principal Ged O’Donnell, who certainly deserves accolades. But O’Donnell credits the iPad use for much of the improvement, especially in science studies.
The Montlieu Academy of Technology was a prototype for Guilford County, and it has led to the program to give all middle-schoolers in the county tablets to incorporate into their studies. Montlieu’s experience suggests such innovate ideas in education could produce positive results countywide. But what about the cost?
The Montlieu iPads were funded by $250,000 in donations. The Guilford middle school plan is made possible by a $30 million federal grant. But where does funding come from when grants and gifts run out? How will these technological, educational advances be paid for going forward?
With funding limited, education officials will have to make some tough choices and apply funding priorities. It won’t be an easy task, but doing what’s best for the students should be their guide.