MacBook Air laptops in the hands of every student by next fall — launched Sept. 3. The first delivery was 24 iPads in Jeremy Eller’s fourth-grade math and science class at Kinard Elementary School.
“You’re the very first students in our Connected classes to touch the iPads out of the cages,” said Beth Goff, instructional technology specialist for the schools.
Student A.D. Cannon led off his peers by shouting out, “Thank you.”
Cannon said he’s excited to get you use the iPad as his own, and “have fun with it.”
“These are cool,” said student Dallas Brown, while working on an assignment. “It’s really easy. It’s a game, but I’m learning math.”
What Connected Classrooms means is the district is looking to shift to a 1-to-1 mobile computing learning environment next school year for students in kindergarten through 12th grade, meaning each student will be provided with their own iPad in elementary and middle school or laptop in high school instead of the current 3-to-1 sharing.
All schools, like Kinard, currently have carts with the devices for students to share. Eller said this provides a unique opportunity for his students.
“They can have their own and keep track of it using the cloud so students can work here and go home without fumbling around for a flash drive,” he said. “Since everything is going on it, it’s very important and provides a fast turnaround for grading and feedback.”
But most important, “I think this is getting them ready for the real world.”
This year, 33 teachers, who applied for the program, were selected to be Connected test pilots. About 1,000 students will be able to take the devices home in the fourth nine weeks following learning how to use them, and practicing procedures and rules. In the 2014-2015 school year, grades 3 to 12 will be able to take them home and practice sending homework to the Cloud, for example.
“A significant number of students will get to practice with them and take them home before all students next August,” said Mychal Frost, public information officer for the district.
More than 600 iPads were delivered last week at the district’s elementary and middle schools, Frost said. About two teachers per Connected Classroom received about 25 tablets at each elementary and five teachers received about 30 at each middle school.
Kinard Principal Kathy Weathers said while students are accustomed to using iPads, having their own is key.
“This adds another level to our instructional programs that will take them into high school to college and into their careers,” she said. “It’s important to start them early, to get them confident and ready.”
Assistant Superintendent Dr. Sheila Quinn said they will be ordering about 2,000 laptops – 30 for each of the seven Connected Classrooms – for the high school, but they are waiting for Apple to release the new Mavericks desktop operating system.
“We believe this is the device kids are going to be using on a regular basis in terms of school life,” Quinn said. “It’s kind of like not having a calculator when we went to school.”
She said students are assessed on computer skills, like being able to type, drag and drop, and highlight sections to prove a point.
“All of our assessments are on the computer,” she said. “As much as it is the way they learn, it’s also the way they are assessed.”
Goff said it’s also about “leveling the playing ground at home” so all students are equally digitized.
“We have a huge task ahead, and fortunately, we’re building up to it,” she said.
Quinn said the pilot program was awarded $300,000 from the school board for the pilot program. She said the board will be presented soon with the figure for a districtwide Connected Classrooms. She said it costs about $400 for each iPad and $1,000 for each MacBook, plus applications, software, covers and other items. There are about 6,880 in Clover schools.
Quinn said they are still writing rules for next year and figuring out the insurance plan and cost to parents.
“We haven’t worked out those numbers yet,” she said. “It’s like an onion. It’s so fun, it’s so exciting, but it’s a lot to think about.”