It was a talking point among North Summit School District administrators for years, but this winter the one-to-one iPad initiative will be a reality. Following board approval earlier this month, the North Summit School District is moving forward to implement a new program which students in the high school will receive iPads.
Using capital funds, the school district will invest $150,000 in providing the iPads which will be issued to students to use both in and out of the classroom, a first in the district's history. The funds, which are separate from maintenance and operational budget, will allow the school the begin piloting the program. The School Board unanimously approved of the one-to-one initiative, a program that will take roughly three years to fully implement.
"We know that this going to be the way of education," said Superintendent Jerre Holmes. "We understand that technology is replacing textbooks. It's the way kids learn now. They all have a phone and we believe using technology is this generation's nature. We are confident the program is going to provide better ways for our students to learn."
Holmes has spent time recently talking to other school districts about technology initiatives similar to the one at North Summit High School, a way to form policy and learn from other schools' mistakes. And a handful of teachers have already begun using iPads in the classroom in addition to time spent at the school computer lab.
From education applications to online textbooks, teachers have already been figuring out the best way to use the new technology. It could be a biology class using an app in which students can rotate a three-dimensional diagram of a heart. It could be easier to distribute in-class quizzes. Either way, getting iPads distributed to students will serve as a launching point to bring classrooms that added technological edge.
"These are basically textbooks," Holmes said, "but each one is a textbook that has video or 3D imaging. When you open a textbook, you just see the picture. Pictures on the iPad come to life, and that's the point. It is interactive."
When Holmes was in high school in Wyoming, he remembers writing a research paper where the class traveled to the Brigham Young University library. Students leafed through physical documents, microfilms and periodicals. But that's not how students access information anymore, he said.
"When I compare that paper to how kids are doing their research papers today, it is amazing how far we've come."
"This is a better system, working with electronic textbooks and applications that automatically update. If we buy a textbook this year, in two or three years it may be outdated. Online textbooks just automatically update. Take a history book for example. Whoever wins the election, that information is immediately posted to the online textbook. In some schools, I bet I could open a textbook where Jimmy Carter is still the current president. That won't be the case in our district."
As the program is phased into the high school starting in January, iPads will reach more students in the middle and elementary schools, Holmes said. All iPads currently used in the high school with a mobile cart that travel between classes will be moved into the middle school. In the coming years, seventh and eighth graders will also receive iPads and as funds become available to purchase more devices, Holmes said the district hopes to put an iPad cart in every classroom.
"We are committed to this program," Holmes said. "And it's not that we're in competition, rather we want to be on the forefront. We want to already be out there than having to try to keep up. We know it's coming, that technology is increasingly important."
"On the state level, there will be legislation this session that may address whether or not the state wants to fund technology for all the school districts," he added. "If that's the case, the state can help fund what we are already doing. If not, we are not waiting. We're moving forward with this."
The North Summit School District will implement a firewall system that will prevent any school issued iPad from being used inappropriately outside the classroom.
The program is expected to launch at the start of the second semester of school in January following board approval of the official program policies and a parent-student orientation with the new devices. Parents will receive a send-home letter from the school district with more information regarding their students and the program.