Aly Xiong, Maplewood principal, sleeps on school roof to raise money for iPads

Maplewood principal Aly Xiong spent the night on the school's roof to raise money for iPads.
Maplewood principal Aly Xiong spent the night on the school's roof to raise money for iPads.
Photo courtesy of Gethsemane School

Aly Xiong, a principal at the Gethsemane School in Maplewood, spent Tuesday night camped out in a tent on the elementary school's roof.

Xiong says the wacky idea randomly came to him during the statewide Non-Public School Fundraiser when he threw out a goal of $20,000 to buy what he says are much-needed iPads for Gethsemane's students.

"I told the students that if they raised the $20,000, I'd spend the night on the roof," he said. "That got them excited and motivated."

The school ended up exceeding the goal, raising $25,000 total through pledges and anonymous donations, according to Xiong.

So Xiong kept his word and took to the roof, even though he describes himself as "not really an outdoor person."

"It was actually nice, though it was a little hard getting used to the traffic noises," Xiong said. "It wasn't that cold and I had a sleeping bag."

Students, parents and staff visited him until 9 p.m. and were encouraged to bring canned goods to donate to a local food shelf.

iPads are increasingly becoming an important tool in classrooms, according to Xiong. Much like students used to be told to "go look it up" in an encyclopedia, iPads are a handy, portable way for students to take responsibility for their own education.

"The iPad allows classrooms to be more student-centered so that they're getting their information on their own as well as from their teachers," Xiong said. "It helps them take charge of their learning and increases their engagement. The teacher is still a teacher, but more of a facilitator."

It also allows students who don't have computers at home to have greater access to information, according to Xiong.

"It narrows the digital divide between students," he said. "You level the playing field."

The students will most likely receive the iPads next semester after they and Gethsemane's teachers have received sufficient training on the computers' appropriate uses for the classroom, Xiong said.

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