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District considers acquiring iPads in bulk

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For less than the current textbook rental fee, seventh- and eighth-graders at Hauser Jr.-Sr. High School could each be assigned an iPad.

Flat Rock-Hawcreek School Corp. board members are considering how to introduce the 1:1 iPad program and how to pay for it.

Initiatives to put devices in the hands of every student are becoming increasingly popular across the nation, and it’s a trend Superintendent Kathy Griffey said the district would like to join.

Research from the U.S. Department of Education shows the technology increases student engagement and reduces the time students take to learn a concept by 30 to 80 percent.

Flat Rock-Hawcreek’s effort could start with seventh and eighth grades this fall and then expand to offer iPads to high school freshmen through seniors possibly as early as 2015, if the board approves.

By charging students a $150 textbook rental fee and spending $11,000 per year from the school corporation’s Capital Projects Fund, the district could rent 150 iPads on a four-year lease, Griffey said.

Students in high school currently pay an average of $200 for textbooks, and in some cases the rental fee is even more.

Although board member Thomas Miller was concerned about supplementing the purchase from the school corporation’s budget, he said he supports the effort.

“We started down this road; we can’t stop now,” he said.

The board asked school administrators to pursue this type of program just a few years ago so students could access online resources with ease, and the school corporation is already there, he said.

Students already have been introduced to online software like My Big Campus and Discovery Science.

“If anything, we should applaud your effort,” he said.

The district currently offers carts of iPads that rotate throughout the classrooms at all grade levels. Providing a device to each student would mean learning could continue into the evening and students would grow more comfortable navigating the educational apps.

The board will likely consider a resolution to provide funds to subsidize the iPad program at its meeting April 15, Griffey said.

If the board approves, the district could proceed with a $21,422 four-year lease in one of two ways:

Purchase the iPads for $1 each at the end of that term.

Sell back the iPads for $45 per device at the end of that term.

Board president Andy Hunnicutt said that is an important decision.

“Technology doesn’t last forever, what is the lifespan?” he asked. “Where will technology be in four years?”

Educators aren’t sure, but they don’t want to wait four years to find out.

Under the direction of Technology Director Denise Ollestad, the school already has set up much of the required infrastructure.

The school has installed additional wireless access points and increased bandwidth, which allows more students to have Internet access at the same time, at increased speeds.

Ollestad said she just needs to find an app to monitor the devices and work with teachers to select textbooks.

Teachers were provided iPads this year to explore the devices before bringing them into daily student lesson plans.

“We didn’t want them to feel unnecessarily or unduly required to use iPads without becoming familiar with them first,” Griffey said.

Mike Flack, district technology coordinator, said there have been mixed reactions from teachers. There’s a lot of excitement but also some hesitation.

It helps that teachers aren’t being asked to replace textbooks completely. Instead, they’ll implement a blended learning model that combines computerized lessons with books and other paper resources.

That was comforting to Hunnicutt, who said it is important the students do not rely solely on the devices to learn.

“It’s a tool; it’s not the answer to all things,” he said. “It helps them find the answer.”

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