School district adopts the iPad

Posted 6/30/11

In approving the program, the board authorized spending $722,000 for the purchase of 1,180 second-generation iPads, the carts, which will store and recharge the devices, and Apple Care service from Apple. Mitchell said federal funds from Title I and …

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School district adopts the iPad


Teachers and students in Powell schools will have the latest technology in hand this fall when each student in the middle school and the high school will be issued an iPad.

The program, which also would provide three carts, each containing 30 iPads, for each of the elementary schools, was approved by the Park County School District No. 1 board on the recommendation of  Superintendent Kevin Mitchell at its June meeting.

In approving the program, the board authorized spending $722,000 for the purchase of 1,180 second-generation iPads, the carts, which will store and recharge the devices, and Apple Care service from Apple. Mitchell said federal funds from Title I and Title VI B will provide $197,000 toward the purchase and other federal funds may be available as well.

Mitchell’s recommendation came following several months of research by school officials into similar initiatives, including Cody’s program providing a laptop computer for each student. In addition, administrators, special education staff and small groups of students have been using iPads since last fall.

Teachers received iPads and initial training in their use in May. They have been asked to explore ways to use the devices in instruction during the summer, and they are expected to share those ideas with their colleagues when the staff returns to school in August.

Superintendent of Schools Kevin Mitchell said the iPads will provide multiple benefits for students and teachers.

“Staff and students will use the iPad to engage in teaching and learning,” Mitchell said. “Students will use the iPads to develop skills necessary for working in the 21st century. Immediate access to information on the World Wide Web will be beneficial to staff and students.”

R.J. Kost, curriculum coordinator for the district, said adopting this type of technology is a necessity for the schools.

“The common core state standards direct us to take our kids into the 21st century,” Kost said. “The iPad allows us to engage kids with the technology they are accustomed to.”

The iPad connects students “with the technological world they live in,” Kost said. Through that connection, students have more opportunities for research and access to real-life problem-solving opportunities. In addition, students will have access to the most current information, as textbooks and other sources can be updated frequently.

PHS English teacher Tracy McArthur said she has been getting used to her iPad this summer, and she sees some definite advantages, especially in the ability to obtain books through application such as iBooks.

“It’s going to be great to use the iBooks (application) for novels, so students will be able to bring their iPads and use them anywhere,” McArthur said.

McArthur also visualizes using the device for activities such as vocabulary quizes, sending a quiz to students and receiving it back electronically.

Westside teacher Bonnie Fauskee said she is just beginning to explore her iPad. Teachers already have been gathering over coffee to share ideas with each other.

From a student’s point of view, the prospect of using an iPad is exciting, said Korrie Kalberer, a PHS junior.

“It will be handy,” Kalberer said. “It will probably replace some of our books, and you can do a lot on them.”

Kalberer said she is looking forward to having an iPad, although she wonders about how they will be handled by students and whether too many of the devices will get broken.

“But if kids use them the right way and take care of them, they’ll be really cool,” Kalberer said.

Having what amounts to a computer in hand and continuous access to the Internet can be a distraction to students, but Kost said keeping kids on task is always a problem for teachers.

“They will require teacher supervision,” Kost said. “Teachers have to be actively engaged in kids’ learning with any materials.”

Kost said the district is reworking the district’s computer users’ agreement to spell out appropriate use of the iPads, and it will “emphasize Internet etiquette even more than it does now.”

“Preventing abuse is a continual process,” Kost said.

Prior to the board’s approval, trustee Lee Craig expressed concern about the cost and what future costs might be. Mitchell responded that, while the start-up costs are high, the switch to the tablets may reduce the number of computers the district has to purchase in the future.

One concern, Mitchell said, is whether the iPads can fully replace computers in the use of the state’s PAWS assessment and the MAP testing used by the Powell schools in developing appropriate instruction for students. If the assessments can be adapted to the iPad, that will reduce the number of computers the district will have to purchase.

“If the switch to personal devices is successful, some lab and classroom equipment will go by the wayside,” Mitchell said.

Later, Kost, noting the increasing cost of standard textbooks, said all textbook companies are working to make their books available on personal devices, which would provide savings. Additionally, those textbooks could be updated at a low cost, making the necessity of purchasing new books less frequent.

Ultimately, Kost said, society is migrating to this form handling information and communication, and the school needs to prepare students for those changes.

“It’s the media we live in,” Kost said. “It has a lot of advantages, and it’s a great educational tool.”