AUBURN — A surprise donation a few days before Christmas is allowing Saint Dominic Academy to buy iPad mini tablet computers for students in elementary classes, Principal Donald Fournier said Thursday.

On Dec. 20, a husband and wife came to see Fournier, expressing their wish to give the school $10,000 to be used for a specific purpose, as opposed to going in the general budget.

Fournier suggested iPads. The couple, who wish to remain anonymous, agreed.

The private Catholic school has ordered 40 new iPads, which should be in classrooms next month, he said.

Fournier said he was moved by the generosity.

“Oh, my gosh, it’s heartwarming to know people are so interested in giving to our students,” Fournier said. “It’s amazing that people think that way.”

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The school has a large family, he said. 

St. Dom’s has two campuses — one for grades seven to 12 in Auburn, another for prekindergarten to grade six in Lewiston. The iPads are going to the elementary school off Lisbon Street to continue improving technology in education.

“We’ve done all of the wireless upgrading we needed, which means everything talks to each other,” Fournier said.

The school has Wi-Fi. All teachers have iPads, which allows them to project videos, graphics and photos onto the whiteboard, right from their iPads.

The school has two computer labs, and there are some laptops in each of the 16 classes, where the average number of students is between 15 and 20. The infusion of new iPads will average one for every four students.

“The iPads will be used more heavily by younger grades,” Fournier said. “The educational apps fit better for young-student learning. Older students use more word documents. The early grades might get four or five iPads, but we can also pool them.”

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Young students will be taught how to use technology responsibly in a controlled environment, Fournier said. There’s a wealth of information on the Internet, “but not all of it is positive or appropriate.”

In the school’s religious environment, teachers will work to filter out the negatives and show students how to use technology in a careful, thoughtful way, Fournier said.

Statewide, a growing number of public schools at all grades are ditching laptops for iPads. The iPads are smaller, lighter and less expensive, each costing $500 or less.

“They are phenomenal” for young students, Fournier said, adding that youngsters seem to adapt to the touch screen naturally. “They understand it,” he said.

Donald Bilodeau, the assistant principal of the elementary school, invites teachers to share their favorite app each week, Fournier said. Teachers have attended an iPad workshop and are sharing ways to use iPads in classrooms, Fournier said.

“Our teachers are ready,” he said.

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