Tuesday, 1 March 2011

iPads for all freshmen is Xaverian High School's prescription for bright future

Techno-savvy kids own the future.

The old guys who run Xaverian High in Brooklyn are wise enough to have learned that from the smart, hip, middle-class Brooklyn kids in their classrooms.

And so, as Catholic schools continue to shutter, this storied high school on Shore Road in Bay Ridge decided that in order to survive, it had better meet the technological needs of its 21st century students.

"That's why we made a deal with Apple to buy 300 to 350 iPads for the incoming freshman class next year, at a cost of about $150,000 to $200,000," says Bob Alesi, president of Xaverian.

"Our faculty is already training to use them. And we've upgraded our wiring and increased our bandwidth in order for every one of our 1,300 students to participate in a one-to-one computer environment within four years."

Alesi expects the alumni to become excited by this program and step up with some financial help.

"If Plato were to walk into one of our classrooms today, he'd see that things haven't changed that much," says Kevin McCormack, Xaverian principal.

"The toys are different, but basically the teacher throws knowledge out there and the students are passive recipients. But it's time now to be in the 21st century. Not Plato's century.

"We're trying to convince parents and teachers that things like iPads and one-to-one computing are not only for these boutique schools on the upper East Side. It's also for Xaverian in middle-class Brooklyn. This isn't a luxury. Our kids have a right to it."

Bob Alesi agrees.

He grew up in Flatbush, graduated Xaverian, and says that although the technology has changed since his school days, hardworking parents who pay the $10,000 tuition are looking for the same things they looked for in the last century: An education for their kids that will help them get into great colleges so they can excel in life.

That isn't happening without technology.

Alesi says since the early 1960s, Xaverian has focused on science, math and technology.

"In the 1990s, we developed a state of the art technology center," he says. "In the last 10 years, we've spent over $2million on technology with smart boards, PCs and Internet wiring.

"But they're not just bells and whistles. We've integrated these new tools into the curriculum."

He says that today's teenagers grew up in the computer age.

"They expect us to use technology to educate them better," Alesi says. "Many colleges are already doing it. We wanted to be one of the first high schools in our area to do it."

This is a win-win for the school and the kids who own this science fiction century. Don't think so? Go see "The Social Network." Facebook wasn't born from 20th century lesson plans.

Once Xaverian decided to go techno they had to decide which tool would best meet that end.

"So we asked the kids," says Alesi. "Overwhelmingly, they chose the iPad."

"We learned from them," says McCormack.

See what I mean?

Mike McIntyre sits on the Xaverian board and works in sales at HSBC Bank where Apple is a client.

"Apple was very eager to be in business with Xaverian," he says. "They made a good deal for the hardware and training the teachers at this school that helped give me a life."

Apple also knows who owns the future.

"The kids of Xaverian are still the best and brightest of Brooklyn," Alesi says. "They will go on to do great things. And we were smart enough to learn from them."


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