Catholic Schools to Replace Textbooks with New Technology

Catholic high schools across the country are increasingly looking towards the possibilities of iPads and other wireless digital devices as a way to expand educational opportunities and teach students to use 21st-century technology.

John Fedko, president of Vincentian Academy in McCandless, thinks high-tech devices are so important that within 10 years paper textbooks will disappear, writes Eleanor Chute at the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.

"We're already finding some of the textbook companies will not allow us to order textbooks too far into the future," Fedko said.

Officials at Vincentian Academy, which is currently testing 35 iPads and 35 laptops, aren't going to stop using print textbooks soon. But Fedko would like to see them phased out within the next five years.

87 freshmen at Canevin Catholic High School in Oakwood were given iPads to use at school and at home. 23 students from feeder Catholic schools who are taking accelerated math and science at Canevin are also being given the devices.

Keeping up with technology is a challenge in Catholic schools where fundraising and budgets are constant concerns, writes Chute.

This comes after the announcement that financial pressures and a dwindling student body are forcing the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Philadelphia to seriously consider closing 44 elementary schools and four high schools across Philadelphia.

As part of the recommendations made by a commission created by the diocese a year ago to address issues facing its schools, the nation's sixth-largest Catholic diocese is set to see its number of elementary schools fall to 112 from 156, while the number of high schools would contract to 13 from 17.

Enrollment in the Philadelphia Catholic diocese has fallen more than 70% to about 68,000 currently from about 250,000 in 1961. This is thought to have been a huge factor in the recommendations, which proposes one of biggest rounds of school closings in the history of the diocese.

Canevin principal Kenneth Sinagra revealed that the iPad program has cost the school $70,000, including some money from a federal technology grant, state textbook money and an anonymous gift.

By next fall Sinagra wants to see the entire school of 394 students on iPads.

"The pilot has gone so well, and our other students are a little bit envious," he said.

To do this, the school is currently seeking a $150,000 grant.

Fedko is also looking to expand the technological opportunities at the Vincentian Academy. He wants to install a wireless network and purchase more devices.

"We have every intention of getting iPads and/or [notebook computers] into all of our students' hands as early as next year," he said.

However, to make this happen the school expects to pay between $150,000 and $250,000.

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