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District 518 rolls out iPad tablet computers for teachers

District 518 staff sit in small groups in the Prairie Elementary School gym Monday, learning how to use the new iPads. (Alyson Buschena/Daily Globe)

WORTHINGTON --District 518 officials distributed iPads Monday afternoon to staff and marked the launch of its initiative to give every student in most grades one-to-one access to iPads within two years.

District staff gathered in the Prairie Elementary gym during an in-service day to receive their new iPads and have their first of what emcee Diane Standafer said would be many training sessions.

"It's a big day for District 518 and as many of you know, it's been a work in progress for the past six months," said Standafer, a member of the district's tech department, as she welcomed the group.

School board director Brad Shaffer also addressed the crowd and praised the step that the Worthington school district took with the purchase of the iPads.

"Today is an exciting day as we take one more step forward in our efforts to educate our students to the best of our ability with every resource we have at our fingertips, and that is what these iPads are going to be," Shaffer said.

"We're evolving and re-placing chalkboards with white boards and white boards with these iPads," he added. "As a school board member, I am very proud to be part of this, but more importantly, as a parent, I am very excited that my children and all the other students in the district will have the opportunity to learn with the same equipment this world is requiring."

The district plans to give iPads to each student in grades 3-8 next fall, with "some mobile labs in the high school and elementary school," District Superintendent John Landgaard said.

In the fall of 2014, students in grades 3-12 and at the Alternative Learning Center will receive iPads.

Amy Ernst, District 518 technology coordinator, said that students in kindergarten through second grade will have access to iPads as needed.

"We're doing the cart model for K-2 because we want them to learn their social skills and have all the interaction that they need," she said.

Landgaard and Ernst both said the initiative will be beneficial to both teachers and students.

"You see kids gravitating towards technology like it's no big deal, and we need to meet them at their level a little bit, and we need to level the playing field," Ernst said. "We need to do what we can do to put technology in everyone hands -- not only the people that have money to buy them -- so everyone has access to the technology."

Landgaard said the iPads will "open doors for students and staff."

"It comes down to -- technology is where things are happening," he said. "This allows us to really start to do some individual learning aspects with kids."

Marketed by Apple, iPads are easily customizable through the use of the thousands of "apps" available to download. Teachers will be able to create and grade quizzes more efficiently, and students will be able to work more independently and at their own pace if needed -- to name just a few benefits.

"Really, there are apps and opportunities to use it in any of the classrooms," said Landgaard, referring to the diversity -- cultural, economic, linguistic and developmental -- within District 518.

"I think if we put the same piece of technology in every student's hands, it's easy to create a lesson because you know exactly what the students have access to," Ernst added. "Otherwise, you have to provide a computer lab for the students to use, and they are a hot commodity and hard to get to sometimes."

Funded through "direct general fund dollars," Landgaard said the project will be ongoing.

"These are district-owned, not leased, so they will be here forever or until they break -- but hopefully they will be here forever," he said. "We're looking at this being a long-term project for the district.

"It's a good day for our school district."

Daily Globe Reporter Alyson Buschena may be reached at 376-7322.

Alyson Buschena
Alyson joined the Daily Globe newsroom staff after spending a year in Latin America. A native of Fulda and graduate of the University of Northwestern, she has a bachelor's degree in English with a dual concentration in Literature and Writing and a minor in Spanish. At the Daily Globe, Alyson covers the crime beat as well as Pipestone and Murray counties, community news and feature stories. In her spare time, she enjoys traveling, reading, and cooking. More of Alyson's writing can be found at
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