By James Niedzinski
---- — MANCHESTER — Technology and schools seem to go hand and hand, and Cape Ann school districts have all made leaps and bounds since the days of chalk boards and clapping erasers.
Students at both Manchester Memorial School and Essex Elementary can literally hear the change. Both schools now have state-of-the-art sound systems, which enable teachers and students alike to project their voices across the classroom.
The new technology was made possible by the Spaulding Education Fund, which allocated more than $100,000 to the school district last year.
Tracy Davis, a member of the fund Steering Committee, said about 20 of the classrooms in Manchester Memorial have the new equipment and 18 in Essex. They were funded for about $25,000.
Patricia Fleming, a third grade teacher for Manchester Memorial School, said the teaching tool has become a staple in her education arsenal.
“No more sore throats,” she said Tuesday.
Fleming said the microphones and speakers allow her, as well as other students, to speak clearly without yelling. Nobody now has to compete with children at recess or kids roaming the halls.
A number of the classes are now using the sound system, which was passed in a pilot program last year, according to Ann Pulver, who co-chairs the Spaulding Fund Steering Committee.
Students were tasked with describing a favorite activity or place as a part of a writing assignment, and Luke Muruzzi, a soft-spoken third-grader, read his assignment aloud. This time all of his classmates were able to hear him.
”I really like hockey; I started playing when I was 3 years old,” he said. “You get to travel all over Massachusetts, too.”
Davis said approximately $47,000 was awarded in the 2011 grant cycle, allowing students to use iPads in the classroom this year. There are 30 iPads at the high school, 10 for first-graders at Manchester Memorial and 30 for the Essex Elementary first-graders.
”We wanted to give something future students can use, as well,” Davis said.
Students use them in a variety of ways, from taking tests to sharing information.
Dean Martino, a business and management teacher who helped write the grant for the equipment, said the new technology progressed smoothly into the classroom.
”It has provided a way for students to be more centered and focused,” he said Tuesday. “It has revolutionized teaching.”
Manchester Essex schools are not alone.
In Gloucester, all of the students in one of the three sixth-grade “houses” at O’Maley Middle School have been supplied iPads this fall under a research project supported with money from the nonprofit Gloucester Education Fund.
Also, Rockport schools also hope to be getting six to eight iPad minis within the next two weeks, according to Rockport Elementary School Principal Shawn Maguire.
Maguire said the school had just received a grant of $2,000 from New England Bio. There was also a fund-raiser for the new equipment earlier in the year, with the school raising an additional $1,000 by selling pizza at different events.
”There are so many useful apps available out there,” Maguire said. “Not just on the iPads, but smartphones, as well.”
Some of Martino’s Manchester Essex students have used iPads to take their final exam, in addition to quizzes and other activities.
When students scanned a quick response code (similar to a bar code) with their new equipment, they were linked to different assignments and information directly.
Maddie Monagle, a senior, had a chance to use the iPads last year during the pilot program.
”At first, there was temptation to use them for games,” she said. “We have more responsibility with the iPads now, using them for tests and in the classroom are engaging enough.”
Martino said some of his students did not have a chance to use the iPads in the pilot program, but they were fast learners.
”We let them experiment with the iPads themselves first,” he said. “They knew exactly what to do.”
In addition to the new Manchester Essex technology, the Spaulding Fund also allocated $1,600 to Tamera Burns, an art teacher at the high school.
Burns said she has Joe Higgins, a Salem artist, visiting her classes today to demonstrate the art of fish printing. She explained that it is a very old artistic process in which fish are dipped in foam and ink, then decorated onto rice paper.
“We always try to give something that more than one student or one school can enjoy,” Davis said.
James Niedzinski can be reached at 978-283-7000, x3455 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.