CLOVER — The Clover school board has approved spending $4.2 million over three years on its Connected Classroom initiative, which aims to put an Apple iPad or MacBook Air in the hands of every student by next fall.
Under a lease-purchase agreement with Apple, the Clover district will pay $1.4 million a year for three years beginning in March for the computer hardware and software for teachers and students. The cost includes a full-time Apple training specialist on staff for the first year.
After the first three years, the project would be renewed if it’s successful, finance director Ken Love told the school board.
“We’re committing to a long-term philosophy of using this technology as a teaching tool,” Love said.
The school district won’t need to borrow money for the technology initiative, Love said. Clover has ended several years with budget surpluses, which will help it cover the cost.
Connected Classroom will change the way instruction looks in Clover schools, Superintendent Marc Sosne said.
“As of August 2014,” he said, “every teacher in the district will have been trained in the one-to-one instruction model.”
A classroom will “be very different than it is right now,” he said. Students “will have a device on their desk or in their lap and can work independently. Teachers will need to plan lessons differently.
“The face of our instruction will be very different.”
But students won’t just be looking at computers, Sosne said.
“When it is done well, you will see a lot of collaborative learning,” he said. “We will see a lot of students working together on projects. And that is our goal, to be one of those lighthouse districts that does it better than everyone else.”
Right now, schools have carts with devices for the students to share on a 3-to-1 ratio, and older students can visit computer labs. Connected Classroom will provide each student with his or her own mobile computer.
The district earlier this month launched the first phase of the initiative – a pilot project – when it distributed more than 600 iPads to elementary and middle school classrooms across the district.
The project is being piloted with 33 teachers who applied to begin using the devices with about 1,000 students in their classrooms. The pilot teachers trained during the summer, and more training is planned for other teachers this school year.
The school board budgeted about $300,000 in the current year to begin the pilot program.
Each iPad costs about $400 and about $1,000 for each MacBook, assistant superintendent Sheila Quinn said, plus applications, software, covers and other items. There are about 6,600 students in Clover schools.
Under the lease-purchase agreement, Quinn said, Apple will recycle older iPads and MacBook Air laptop computers and replace them with new versions, so students will have the latest technology.
None of the MacBooks has been distributed at the high school, Quinn said. In October, the district will receive 170 MacBook Air laptops for teachers and about 2,000 for high school students.
About 240 MacBook Airs will be distributed this fall for the pilot project, she said. The district also expects to receive about 2,500 more iPads this fall.
Most of the iPads and MacBook Airs are planned to be distributed to students across the district in the fourth quarter of this year, Quinn said, so students and teachers can begin to learn how to use them.
Students in third to 12th grades could begin taking the devices home and using them beginning in the fourth quarter, she said. Before that happens, the district needs to establish rules and guidelines.