Villa Madonna Academy in Villa Hills is celebrating its 109th school year, but it’s not stuck in the past. Instead, it’s implementing a school-wide, K-12 iPad program to keep looking toward the future.

“The mission of Villa is to educate students in grades K through 12 for full Christian participation in 21st century life, which really goes back and supports the iPad initiative, ensuring that our students are prepared not only for college but beyond,” says Director of Communications and Alumni Relations Neena Volk.

This year, all students sixth through 12th grade will participate in the school’s 1:1 iPad program. Each student will have his or her own school-issued iPad. Kindergarten through fifth grade homerooms will also be equipped with tablets.

“The reason the iPads are so useful is it is something that can be easily done in the classroom,” says Elementary School Principal Soshana Bosley. “You don’t have to take them to a computer lab or somewhere else. Everything is right there on the iPad that the student needs.”

The school saw the value of tablets in the classroom early on, but they wanted to make sure they got it right before handing an iPad to every student.

During the 2011-2012 school year, Villa implemented a small pilot program. The following year, they gave iPads to junior high students and select high school classes. “We took two years to do the study before we launched the program so that our teachers could have extensive training and so that we really laid a strong foundation with … what purpose they would serve and how we could best do this to operate in a safe, digital environment,” says Pamela McQuenn, the high school principal.

The teachers at Villa are taking what they learned the previous years to make the program a success.

With kindergarteners through fifth graders, the focus is on learning how to use the iPad to make projects and presentations in a variety of classes. Last year, third graders created arrays (a set of objects that follow a pattern) and then used the iPad to take pictures and write word problems. Fourth graders used the iPad to create short movies about their clay bowl art project, attaching QR codes (a barcode that links to a website when scanned by a smartphone) to it so that people could access the videos.

Because each junior high and high school student will have an iPad, the teachers are integrating the tablets into all classes. Students will be recording videos, researching topics and communicating with people in other countries to make learning more interactive. Apps like Edmodo, Dropbox and Google Drive allow students to save and access their work from anywhere. Students even use the iPads to take notes and create virtual flashcards.

“One of the goals of the teachers will be to have the students manipulate digital content,” says McQueen. “So not just downloading textbooks, because that doesn’t really serve much of a purpose, but to actually access and manipulate the content they do find.”

Villa’s 1:1 iPad program is about collaboration for both students and teachers.

“[The teachers] will go to one another as resources, in fact they were meeting to talk about how can we integrate the iPads across curriculum and asking, ‘What are you doing, how can I do this at my grade level, what works and what doesn’t work,’” says Bosley.