Column: District 518 invests in future with iPads
WORTHINGTON -- In a world of ever-changing technology, public education has historically struggled with keeping pace -- but not for long! At the beginning of this school year, the superintendent, along with support from the school board, asked several teachers and administrators to look into a technology initiative for District 518. Thus, the Learning Device Initiative, or LDI, was formed.
The LDI is composed of several teachers from each building, a couple of administrators and a few district technology employees. We were "blessed" with the task of researching and recommending a technology initiative that could help meet the educational needs of our students. The LDI was split into four different committees; Technology, Staff Development, Curriculum and Instruction, and Implementation.
The Technology Committee researched several different devices available, from Kindles to laptops. They also looked into the system we will be using to manage the devices, how they will get distributed and how to keep track of who is using the devices. The Staff Development Committee researched and developed staff trainings, student trainings and trainings that will be offered to parents of students who will be getting the devices. Curriculum and Instruction researched how the devices will best meet the curricular needs of teachers in all the buildings; its members also contributed to the online platform the district will use. The Implementation Committee developed a plan to implement the devices into each building and a district "proper use" guidelines packet, and also contributed to the discussions about the online component. All the committees met monthly to discuss guidelines, contract agreements, feedback on the devices and several other challenges the committees faced throughout the process.
After several months of research, discussion, visits from school districts, phone conversations and meetings, the LDI recommended iPads for students. The ultimate goal, within the next two years, is to have iPads for every student at the middle school, high school and ALC. Prairie will be on a cart model, for now.
The LDI chose iPads for several reasons. They have been around for a while, reliability, the educational apps available, support available, and they are used in more than 80 percent of districts throughout the state that have technology plans in place. There are several other devices the LDI looked into, but at this time they are not able to compete with the iPads for one reason or another.
The district is hoping iPads will help level the playing field for all students, allow the staff to differentiate and customize the education of each student, increase student understanding and efficiency with technology, and help better prepare them for a "technologically rich" future.
So what's the plan?
The plan is to implement 1:1 devices to grades 3-8 this fall, with the high school receiving several carts of iPads. In the fall of 2014, 1:1 devices will be implemented at the high school and ALC, with Prairie either receiving 1:1 devices, or more carts of iPads. The goal will be to have full implementation in the fall of 2014. The district will be leasing the iPads for three years and, at the end of the lease, it will evaluate the success of the program and determine how they will continue with the initiative.
The next step is to present the information to Mr. Landgaard and the school board for approval. If the school board supports the LDI's recommendations, then iPads will be ordered for district staff and staff trainings will begin. This summer, the district will order the first set of iPads, and begin to get them ready for students to use in the fall of 2013.
This is a very exciting time for students in District 518, and the district is confident this initiative will have a positive impact on student learning and student success.
David Rezny is Worthington High School's assistant principal.