By Lindsey Ziliak
Tribune staff writer
Every student in Western School Corp. will receive a take-home iPad next year as part of the district’s new one-to-one technology plan unveiled at this week’s board meeting.
It’s a move district officials have been considering since 2009. Superintendent Randy McCracken said now is the time to implement it.
“If we want our students to compete, we have to give them these opportunities,” he said.
School board members agreed. They voted Monday to move forward with the plan.
By July, the district will issue iPad minis to students in kindergarten to third grade and an iPad 4 to students in third to 12th grades.
McCracken said the initiative will cost the district about $258,000 a year when insurance is factored in. The money will come from the capital projects fund, common school fund, rainy day fund and from textbook fees, the superintendent said.
McCracken said most parents won’t see much of an increase in their textbook fees. The most it will go up is $45 at the high school level. Parents of eighth-graders won’t see any increase, he said.
A presentation made by David Warlick at a school’s conference in September convinced McCracken Western needed to make the leap to one-to-one technology.
In the presentation, Warlick said education used to be about teaching “definable bodies of knowledge” to students in an “information scarce” world.
But students today have never lived in a world where information is scarce.
“Today, for the first time in decades, we are questioning our notions about teaching and learning as we adapt to a world that is changing faster than our ability to react,” Warlick says on his website. “We are struggling to rethink what it is to be educated, to reinvent where it happens, and redefine our roles as educators — as the line between teacher and student appears to blur.”
McCracken said he realized then that his students are technology savvy with their smartphones, iPads and iPods, and they learn best through that technology.
“I thought, ‘We have to make this happen,’” he said.
The change doesn’t mean iPads will replace teachers. McCracken said students will still have traditional classroom experiences and will use some traditional textbooks.
But the iPads will likely increase student engagement, provide teachers with additional instructional resources, give students immediate access to the Internet and give students the freedom to drive their own learning, the superintendent said.
Teachers will be able to grade without paper. Textbooks will become interactive, and applications on the iPad will facilitate remediation for students who fall behind in a subject.
McCracken said the possibilities are endless with the technology.
He said Apple is a leader in educational resources. That’s why Western chose the iPads.
Other Indiana districts are following suit. Just a few years ago, only a handful of districts in the state partnered with the company for technology initiatives.
This year, 55 districts across the state have some sort of Apple technology program, McCracken said.
Western’s program will include a digital citizenship course for middle school students to teach them how to use the technology responsibly.
Eastern teaches a similar course at its junior high.
“We want to show them what’s appropriate and how to keep them away from chat rooms that could get them in trouble,” McCracken said.
The high school will offer an independent study course that will allow students to help the technology department work on the new devices.
McCracken said the district is still ironing out a few details of the program. Officials aren’t sure if they will make students pay for broken devices, or if the school will pick up the tab.
The district will issue a responsible use policy, parent agreement, student agreement and broken iPad form.
McCracken said even parents are excited about this project.
“Parents know that technology is here to stay,” he said. “And it’s moving rapidly.”