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Hopkins School Board OKs Plan to Fill Schools with iPads

The board gave preliminary approval to $200,000 that will help the district ramp up the use of digital devices, including iPads for every junior high student.

The School Board on Thursday unanimously granted preliminary approval for $200,000 toward a districtwide “digital content” plan—taking the first step toward flooding local classrooms with iPads and other digital devices.

While some School Board directors were unsure about the proposal , discussion at Thursday’s meeting focused on logistics—such as whether iPads would work with existing technology, the role students’ smart phones have to play and how special education students will use iPads.

The $200,000 that directors preliminarily signed off on is part of a $3 million plan paid for primarily by changing capital project levy priorities—including reducing money for older technology, such as desktop computers. The one-time money funds the transition period while the district is still ramping up use of iPads.

That plan would bring more than 3,000 digital devices into Hopkins schools over the next three years. The biggest changes would come to the junior highs. Every seventh grade student will have an iPad starting in the 2012-13 school year. That would be expanded to eighth grade in 2013-2014 and ninth grade in 2014-15.

“I’m really excited about this,” said Principal Becky Melville.

But there would be a three-year rollout of technology at all grade levels that would allow teachers to train on new devices and produce necessary content. That rollout would add new devices according to the following plan:

  • Preschool through sixth grade: The district would add about 200 iPads annually for three years. This would not be a one-to-one program.
  • Junior high: The district would bring a one-to-one iPad program to the seventh grade in 2012-13, eighth grade in 2013-2014 and ninth grade in 2014-15.
  • High school: The district would add about 200 devices annually for three years. This would not be a one-to-one program, and they wouldn’t necessarily all be iPads. The district is currently testing Chromebooks—low-cost laptops focused on cloud-based programs like Google Apps—that could play a part in the mix.

The devices, though, are not the major thrust of the technology plan. They are just the way that students will access the most relevant content and curricula, district leaders say.

"The most exciting thing about this year's budget is the collision between curriculum and technology," Superintendent John Schultz said. "One of our strengths is technology, and one of the things our parents are asking for is that we prepare students for the digital world."

The district is phasing in the iPads in order to allow a purposeful and intentional adoption of the new technology. In preparation for next year's rollout, Hopkins administrators are already working with teachers who have conducted digital pilots to develop a staff-development program, according to a school district news release published soon after the vote. The district is also hiring digital content specialists to help integrate digital content.

“There is probably more excitement than there are devices, in terms of moving forward,” Sid Voss, the district’s head of technology, said at the meeting.

Thursday’s technology vote was part of preliminary budget approval that allows the District to begin planning for the 2012-13 school year. The board will give final budget approval in June.

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How Much Would it Cost?

2011-12 $141,816 2012-13 $893,232 2013-14 $903,164 2014-15 $901,047

 

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