WESTPORT – This week, parents of South Decatur Elementary School (SDES) students are attending meetings to learn about the one-to-one iPad initiative, in which each student will receive an iPad to be used for educational purposes.
DCCS Superintendent Johnny Budd said the one-to-one iPad initiative had been several years in the making. He credited the technology committee and several individuals with spending a lot of time and energy researching the program and coming up with a plan tailor-made for the school district.
Decatur County Community Schools (DCCS) has been researching the benefits and drawbacks of one-to-one technology programs for roughly three years. The DCCS technology committee visited three Indiana schools already participating in one-to-one technology programs. The committee has also attended the state technology conference for the last three years.
The Daily News attended one of the meetings at SDES to learn more about the one-to-one iPad initiative. Casey Bolton, the Technology Integration Specialist at SDES, said that in addition to sampling software, the DCCS technology committee has met on a regular basis to share their personal research, collaborate about the initiative and share ideas on the best ways to customize the program for the needs of the school corporation.
“With the ever changing world we live in, technology wise, I think it’s extremely important that we move in this direction for our kids’ futures,” said Budd.
According to Bolton, one of the most important things the school corporation has done to research and prepare for the launch is starting a one-to-one pilot program last January in six elementary school classrooms. The pilot program allowed the school to examine the pros and cons of the one-to-one initiative first hand before launching the corporation-wide program.
“As the Technology Integrations Specialist, I have been training the teachers to use the iPads and how to use them for lessons. The pilot programs have helped us work out some of the kinks,” Bolton said.
Bolton listed a number of reasons for the school taking part in the one-to-one initiative, such as creating 21st century learners, with the digital skills colleges and employers will be expecting of applicants in the future. According to Bolton, by teaching these skills from an early age, students will be well versed in the technology by the time they graduate and enter the workforce. She added that much of the technology today’s elementary school students will be expected to use has not even been invented yet.
“We’re excited to be going one-to-one because it will motivate the students and help them become more college and career ready,” Bolton said.
Each student in kindergarten through second grade will receive a 16 gigabyte iPad mini, while each student in third through sixth grade will get a 16 gigabyte full size iPad. Each device is numbered to correspond with each individual. Though students turn in their devices at the end of the year, they will receive the same one at the start of the next school year, with the exception of students going from second to third grade and those going from sixth grade to junior high.
Teachers have been trained to deal with many technology issues and anything teachers can’t handle the technology department will take care of. The cost of the iPads has already been paid with the $50 technology charge parents paid for with school book rental fees at the beginning of the year. Low income families can receive assistance with this fee just as they would for textbook rental assistance. The school will strive to keep the fees similar from year to year.
Insurance for the devices is available as well, at a cost of $25 per child annually, with discounts available for families with multiple children. The first instance of damage will be covered by insurance, after a $10 deductible is paid. The second instance of damage will cost the parent $90. The third time an iPad is damaged and any times after that in a single year, the parent will be responsible for the full cost of repairs. The cord and chargers are not included in the insurance plan.
According to the school, students will use the iPads exclusively for educational purposes. Students will not be using the devices all day during school and parents are expected to regulate home usage. Accommodations will be made for students who do not have access to internet at home.
At Monday’s meeting, parents had many questions about damage and the insurance plan. One family with more than one child was concerned about how to tell the identical devices apart. Many parents were concerned with replacement costs. Several admitted they didn’t see the need for the iPads, since they didn’t have anything like that when they were in school. However, many parents seemed to realize the need for staying up to date with the technology of the day, as today’s children will be tomorrow’s technology users.
“We are digital immigrants, but the kids are digital natives. This is the world they grew up in. Why would we keep technology out of their education? We need to keep up with the technology that’s in the world,” Budd said.
The students appear to be thrilled with the prospect of using iPads for their schoolwork. The Daily News spoke to SDES fourth grader Holly Marsh, who said she was happy about the iPads and was confident she could properly care for it because she has an iPod Touch at home.
“I’m excited to learn more about math and science on the iPad and to read the ebooks,” Marsh said.
SDES principal Kara Holdsworth said she is looking forward to implementing the program. Students will receive their iPads on Friday and will begin using them right away. Due to inclement weather last week, North Decatur Elementary School had to postpone their parent meetings regarding the iPads and the school will be going through the same process as SDES next week.
“With our technology, we are wanting to create 21st century learners with 21st century skills. It’s vital for our students to have the skills to use digital media. In the future, computers will be a part of everyday jobs. By starting them in kindergarten, they will be able to enhance that learning and will have the opportunity to develop critical thinking. Learning will be able to go beyond our four walls at the school here. I think this will be a great asset to our school and a great tool to help our kids get ahead,” Holdsworth said.
Contact: Amanda Browning 812-663-3111 x7004; email@example.com