As technology continues to be implemented more than ever in education, Wiregrass Ranch High (WRH) will be on the forefront of progress, as it was recently named an “Apple Distinguished School” for the 2012-13 school year, the first school in the Pasco County School District (PCSD) ever to receive the prestigious award.

“It’s an extremely impressive recognition,” says WRH principal Ray Bonti. “Apple recognizes a very small number of schools nationwide. What’s more impressive is that we are a 2,000-student, public high school. Usually, the schools that are recognized are much smaller, private schools.”

According to a WRH press release, the school “joins a select class of institutions (that) Apple is recognizing nationwide as exemplary learning environments and centers of innovation, leadership and educational excellence.”

The release says that WRH was chosen in part because of its “BYOD (Bring Your Own Devices)” program, which allows students to bring to school, and use as instructional tools, their own computers, smart phones, tablets and iPods to enhance learning.

“We’re very open with technology,” Bonti says. “It’s embedded in education, so we try to take advantage of it. There are times when using a smartphone for learning is very practical.”

WRH also is in the process of establishing a program that will eliminate textbooks in the future, replacing them with iPads. It’s being called the “iPad initiative.”

Last school year’s 125 incoming ninth graders were selected to be part of the program and were given iPads to be used for all of their learning needs.

“Instead of being issued five or six textbooks, the students are given an iPad,” Bonti explains. “When those students go home, they’ll do their homework with (the iPad), as well. Everything is done electronically.”

Bonti says that WRH is the first school in the area to implement such a program and adds that he thinks the program played a major role in being recognized by Apple. The school plans to expand the number of students using iPads each year.

WRH will be recognized as an “Apple Distinguished School” at the District School Board meeting on Tuesday, February 19. — MW

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