An iPad for every student?

Published 10:55 pm Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Students at Charles Henderson High School may find themselves turning to iPads instead of traditional textbooks if a new technology initiative is passed.

The Troy City Schools Board of Education this week discussed the benefits of providing iPads to all students in grades nine through 12 as part of a one-to-one technology initiative. The program, recommended by the leadership team and proposed to board members during Monday’s work session, would put the district on the cutting edge of technology and, ultimately, could save money.

“Right now, when we replace math textbooks this year, we’re looking at spending about $80,000 on the books,” said Superintendent Lee Hicks. “If we move to the iPads (for textbooks), we’ve been assured the most an electronic version of the textbook will ever cost is $14.95.” Normally, printed textbooks can cost as much as $200 per student, Hicks said.

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“And the math textbooks are the least expensive ones for us to replace,” he said. “The next year, we’ll be adopting new language arts and literature textbooks – that means three books. …

“That’s where you’ll really start to see the savings.”

Under the proposal, the district would lease 650 iPads from Apple for approximately $112,955 per year. At the end of the lease term, the district would have the option of purchasing the iPads for $1, returning them or entering into a new lease for new technology. The iPads would be assigned to each student in the high school, all teachers and administrators. Students would use the iPads for their math textbooks and be encouraged to use the technology for interacting with teachers, researching assignments, supplemental learning and even test taking. Hicks said the move to digital technology is one that acknowledges the digital-native nature of today’s students. “It’s hard for us from a different generation to understand, but if you give them a pen and paper, they’re going to balk a bit,” he said. “But if you give them an iPad? They’re going to go to it.”

Other school districts have taken similar steps. Both Huntsville and Baldwin County have assigned tablets or iPads to students. Many other districts have assigned individual laptop computers to students.

Under the local plan, each iPad would be marked with a serial number and assigned for the year to an individual student, who will be allowed to take the iPad home at night and on weekends. The district will install software for classwork, textbooks and security purposes. “They’ll have the same web browsers we have at school, so they can’t go to unapproved sites,” Hicks said.

In addition to leasing, Hicks said Apple will provide teacher training and development.

“The key to this will be in professional development,” Hicks said. “We’ll spend the time working with teachers so they know how to utilize them.”

In other business during the work session, the board members discussed efforts to reestablish an after-school program at Troy Elementary School.

Hicks said the administrative team plans to offer supervised after-school care until 5:30 p.m. each day for a nominal fee. “We’re going to allow parents to enroll a child for $35 per week, with a nine-week commitment,” Hicks said. “It’s not just going to be recreation time. We’re going to have instructors on-hand to provide help with homework and tutoring and the students will have access to the technology and resources of the school.”

Pre-K through second-graders will be grouped at the ECC building and the third- through fifth-graders will be grouped at Troy Elementary School.

Dr. Judson Edwards, president of the board, said he was pleased with the revival of the program. “When we started our policy that allowed people coming from outside the district to enroll their students, I worried about people who were working at (Troy University) or CGI,” he said. “They needed some place for their kids to go until they got off work … And not just someplace where they go for recreation.

“Imagine if the parents can pick them up and the kids already have their homework done?”

Hicks said the program should begin in the fall.