Kids learn with technology

Students will now be using Apple iPads in the classroom at Jewish Academy of Orlando

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  • | 1:25 p.m. August 19, 2010
Photo courtesy of Jewish Academy of Orlando - Jewish Academy of Orlando student, Dylan Escobar, uses a new iPad on Monday.
Photo courtesy of Jewish Academy of Orlando - Jewish Academy of Orlando student, Dylan Escobar, uses a new iPad on Monday.
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First-grader July Crawford used an Apple iPad for the first time on Monday.

Her teacher instructed her on the initial signature swipe to unlock the screen, told her what application to choose, and from there, July took the reins.

She just seemed to know what to do, and in seconds was practicing her math.

"It's instinctual," said Amy Polacek, kindergarten teacher at Jewish Academy of Orlando.

"These children are born into an era of technology — this is second nature to them."

The Jewish Academy of Orlando unveiled a new name — it's formerly the Hebrew Day School — a new logo and some shiny new iPads for kindergarten through second grade classrooms on Aug. 16.

The Maitland school has 20 iPads, about four per class and a few extra for other teachers to check out.

"As the technology is changing, they're the first to embrace it," said Renee Libow, president of the school's board of directors whose daughter will be using the iPad in kindergarten this year.

The Academy has a strong focus on technology, and each classroom is equipped to the max with the latest gear. Smart Boards are present in each classroom for teachers to use, along with video iPods and individually issued laptops for students from third to eighth grades.

This technology-driven curriculum is what has incentivized many parents to send their children there.

"I love it — it was a huge selling point when we toured the school," said Neal Crawford, whose daughter will be in first grade this year.

The Academy employs a differentiated learning system, so each student learns at their own pace and focuses on what they need to work on. Teachers said this technology will be one more tool to help with that strategy.

"It's great for reviews, visual learners and kinesthetic learners," Polacek said. "It adapts to anybody."

Lynne Shefsky, head of school, agreed.

"We think it's important to harness the skills of the real digital natives," she said.

"Children enjoy learning even more when they're using technology."

The school's aim is to stay ahead of the new little "digital natives" and make sure their students have the most current technology. Over the past 13 years, grants from Henrietta and Marc Katzen have made that possible. They agree that the school should always be on the cutting edge of technology.

"The trend in education is bookless, not carrying around a 20 pound backpack," Marc said.

"It's the way the world is moving," Henrietta added.

And parents are pleased that the school is moving right along with the world.

"It's unlike any other experience," Libow said. "I know she is learning in so many different ways."

Why the name change?

Formerly The Hebrew Day School, Jewish Academy of Orlando is an academic school that embraces Jewish values. The school serves students kindergarten through eighth grade, and has been the only Jewish day school in the Orlando area since it opened 34 years ago.

The head of school and board of directors felt that the old name didn't represent what the school is, and caused a misconception in the community. So the change was made.

"We believe the new name ... reflects our intent," Shefsky said. "We needed something to take us into the 21st century."

Learn more

To learn more about the Jewish Academy of Orlando, visit