Westwood complex first to get iPads, iPod Touches

The wait is nearly over.

Steve Halvorson, District 16’s technology coordinator, left, shows parent volunteer Tim Tarnowski how to engrave a tracking number on an iPad. iPads will be distributed to most every District 16 student in grades two through 12 on a phase-in schedule. Photo by Elyse Kaner

Steve Halvorson, District 16’s technology coordinator, left, shows parent volunteer Tim Tarnowski how to engrave a tracking number on an iPad. iPads will be distributed to most every District 16 student in grades two through 12 on a phase-in schedule. Photo by Elyse Kaner

District 16, as part of a first phase-in effort, is getting ready to distribute 1,500 electronic devices, among them iPads and iPod Touches, to students and classrooms. Nearly every student in grades two through 12 will be issued digital devices.

Starting the week of Sept. 24, individual iPads will be assigned to students at the Westwood complex. Students will undergo orientation sessions and some time in October will be allowed to take the devices home, making learning available to them on a 24/7 basis.

Denise Waalen, the district’s director of educational services, delivered a report at the Sept. 11 school board regular meeting titled “Expand Digital Learning Through the Implementation of 1:1 Device Initiative Update.”

“We are very excited for our students to start the season with one-to-one devices, Waalen said. “I can’t wait until next year when they have some more tools to do some even more amazing things.”

The district has been preparing for a technological change starting with professional learning sessions in 2004.

This summer about 359 staff members took part in technology-training sessions. Lead teachers learned new technologies for student and staff support. They created a digital tool kit specific to District 16.

In the near future, parents and students will have opportunities to take classes and learn about the devices. The classes will range from basics to advanced and will be offered through the district’s Community Education Department, Waalen said.

For those with questions on device use, three-minute tutorials will be available via Panther Atomic Learning resources.

In total, the district is leasing 4,010 iPads and 865 iPod Touches. Not all will be ordered initially.

This gives the district flexibility to adjust the product order should a better product come into existence, according to Amy Schultz, District 16’s business manager.

The lease agreement, including student devices, software and application vouchers, totals $1.8 million.

The iPads and iPod Touches are funded from a portion of the November 2011 voter-approved capital projects and technology levy. The levy raises about $1.06 million for 2012. The devices are also paid for from reallocated curriculum resource funds.

Rather than updating desktop computers, teachers now have laptops. Teacher devices were paid from the district’s technology replacement plan, Schultz said.

Technology coaches

To help usher in use of the one-to-one devices, notably the iPads and iPod Touches, the district has hired six technology continuous improvement coaches (TCIC).

The coaches will provide support to integrate technology in the classroom during the school year. They will also oversee school media centers.

New positions were not added to fill the coaching assignments, according to Superintendent Jeff Ronneberg.

Rather, the TCICs replace open media positions because of retirements and a resignation in recent years. Some of the TCICs will split their time between coaching and teaching in the district.

The iPads will be used as a tool to help schools create individualized learning for students and foster more inclusivity for special needs students, according to the district. Also, the expanded program will promote equity by giving access of core academics to all students, regardless of economic status.

In the initial phase, students will not be charged a user fee for the devices, Waalen said in an interview. Instead, the district will wait until the devices have been in place for about six months and then, depending on a loss factor, will decide whether to put a user fee in place.

In May, the district will invite parents/residents to a Digital Learning Community Showcase “to see how learning has changed and what we’re doing with the tools,” Waalen said.

Plans are to distribute the digital devices in four phases starting this fall at Westwood intermediate and middle schools. The last phase would have the devices to nearly every students in the district by the end of January or early February, according to Waalen.

District 16 serves about 5,200 students in Spring Lake Park and parts of Blaine and Fridley.

For more information, visit District 16’s recently redesigned website at www.springlakeparkschools.org. Click on Departments. Go to Educational Services, click on 1:1 Digital Learning Initiative.

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An information session on the electronic devices will be held for parents at the Westwood Complex after the monthly PTO meeting. Several sessions will also be offered mornings, evenings and on Saturday for orientation purposes, including safety procedures, learning about the device and more.

Elyse Kaner is at elyse.kaner@ecm-inc.com


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