Spring Lake Park District 16 prepared for the continuing roll-out of iPads to each student recently, this time at Spring Lake Park High School, to help ensure student success in using the digital devices.
The district, so far, has hosted more than 40 parent sessions throughout its schools for grades five through 12.
Before iPads are distributed to students, a parent or guardian is required to attend an information session with their student.
About 60 attended a Feb. 1 session at the district’s fine arts center (FAC) auditorium, where they received a 1:1 digital learning initiative family handbook detailing usage expectations.
At the end of the session, parents turned in a required, signed consent form along with a student-signed pledge for iPad use.
The pledge comprised a list of vows to be taken by students. Among them: to take good care of the iPad, to never loan it out, to charge the battery daily and to keep food and beverages away from the device.
Other stipulations are to use the iPad in appropriate ways that meet SLP schools expectations and to follow policies outlined in an iPad handbook.
“I will be responsible for all damage or loss caused by neglect or abuse,” a clause states.
Assistant Principal John Franke, in one of about 23 information sessions presented at the FAC auditorium for parents and students of District 16 schools, said that students would need to sign pledges and that parents are required to sign consent forms before the iPads are distributed.
Franke reminded the audience that when downloading applications, students must follow district policy.
“Be mindful,” he said about making appropriate app choices.
He spoke about a student who downloaded inappropriate material to his iPad. The IT guy shut the entire iPad down with remote control, Franke said.
iPad care and use
iPad care was near the top of the learning session details at the February session.
Students are not to put pressure on the devices, nor to leave them in hot or cold temperatures. Nor are they to store them in vehicles or leave them out unsupervised – in the cafeteria at lunchtime, for instance, Franke said.
Students are to bring their fully charged iPads to school each day. Should they forget them at home, students continue to be responsible for turning in assignments.
The school will provide places in the building to quickly charge the devices if the need arises.
Should an iPad break, students are to take it to the media center where they will be assigned a loaner.
Parent Lisa Roden was not excited about her son getting an iPad.
“It’s another layer of parent responsibility,” she said. The iPad was another device to manage, including, laptops, desktops and her son’s cell phone, Roden said.
She worried about cracked screens, like the one on her son’s phone. And what about loss?
If she opted out of allowing her son’s use of the iPad (a choice parents are given), she realized it would make it more difficult for him to complete his work, she said.
Roden suggested that the school offer a support group for those students who might get addicted to the iPad.
“The temptation is so huge,” she said about spending a lot of time on the device.
But her son, Samuel, a junior at the high school, could see the upside.
“We’ll save a lot of paper, a lot of class time and it will really open the door for opportunities for people who don’t have Internet access,” he said.
When finished assigning iPads, the district will have distributed about 1,400 iPads to high school students, according to Jerelyne Nemanich, instruction technology coordinator for District 16.
Keep school in loop
Regarding loss of an iPad, Franke said in the information session, the student should keep the school in the loop as to what’s going on.
If an iPad is stolen, students are asked to report it to the police immediately. If the loss is late at night, they are to let the school know in the morning.
“We’ll work with you to help retrieve it and help you move forward,” Franke said.
iPads are to be handed in at the end of the year or before a student leaves the school district for any reason, a transfer, for example.
“The idea behind the iPads is to get them to be college ready,” Steven Brady, assistant principal at SLPHS told the Life. Brady had delivered several information sessions on iPad usage during recent parent-teacher conferences week.
“Other districts that have moved to one-to-one initiative have reported savings in printing,” Brady said in an email to the Life.
‘An awesome tool’
The district’s goal in distributing iPads to individual students is to transform teaching and learning “and our earliest phases of this initiative are providing signs that this is exactly what we are doing,” Nemanich said.
Students and teachers who have been working with the devices for months are excited about the resultant increase in creativity, personalized instruction and student engagement, she said.
Jen Legatt is the technology continuous improvement coach at the high school.
Kids are writing and doing it more efficiently on the iPads, she said.
“They’re powerful resources in their hands at all times, especially the data bases,” Legatt said. “It’s an awesome resource tool.”
Legatt, who began work in District 16 this summer and also serves as media specialist, has noticed that before iPads, the media labs were busy with students researching on computers. Some had to be turned away. “Now kids can do it in their own classrooms,” she said.
Also, teachers can immediately assess the work of students who “get it” and those who don’t.
When the whole class is in sync and reaching their learning goals, the teacher can move on to new material.
The purchase of 1:1 digital devices is funded by a capital project/technology levy approved by voters November 2011. The levy was authorized for eight years at an estimated total project cost of $8.6 million over an eight-year period.
The technology portion of the levy funds are used for improving student learning. The funds also provided replacement for staff computers and continuing the district’s level of support staff, which provides ongoing maintenance and staff training on technology.
Technology funds are also being used to improve parent communications via technology and student’s access to technology from home.
The district by the end of February will have distributed more than 4,800 digital devices, including iPod Touches in grades K-1, iPad Minis in grade two and the rest being one-to-one iPads in grades 3-12, according to Nemanich.
As this edition went to press, second-graders and learning alternatives students were expecting to receive their devices early next week. The Lighthouse Program for gifted students were slated to receive theirs this week.
Elyse Kaner is at firstname.lastname@example.org