The St. Paul School District in Minnesota is set to roll out the state's largest ever iPad initiative — and as the label on each device reads, they were paid for by quite a few people.
"Provided by taxpayers of St. Paul for students of St. Paul public schools."
The initiative was decided upon only three months ago after officials scrapped a separate plan voted for in 2012, "Personalized Learning Through Technology." The original plan called for a Facebook-like web page that would allow teachers and students to interact.
The district has since been busy putting this plan in motion so that almost 40,000 students could each have their own iPad, each coming with a set of core apps.
Apple has recently been facing tough competition in its education sales market from Chromebook laptops, with schools purchasing about 19% of total mobile-computing devices nationally from the company. Apple's sales, on the other hand, are dipping, and the deal with St. Paul is a big win for the company.
The first phase of the launch will bring the devices to 37 schools within the district.
Training sessions are also being made available for teachers, students and administrators alike. While some had no issues using the hand-held devices, others needed help simply logging in. Teachers must complete nine hours of professional development training with the devices.
"This will be a great year of exploration," said Superintendent Valeria Silva of the work and the risks ahead.
One district school has already seen success with iPads. Hamline Elementary paid for iPads for its students in grades 2-5 with a $50,000 grant from the Verizon Foundation. Almost 90% of the students at the school qualify for free or reduced-price lunches.
It only took a few short days of learning to use the devices before the learning took off. Soon, iPad presentations were replacing tri-fold displays, allowing to students to easily create projects.
Teachers enjoyed the technology, too. The iPads allowed them to easily see where each child was in a certain lesson, which in turn made it easier for the teachers to meet individual learning needs.
Not everyone is happy to see the iPads. Some oppose the use of technology in the classroom, suggesting that students be taught to do things on their own. There is worry that students are using them to play games during class and miss out on important lessons.
The iPads will allow the district to stay up-to-date with technology, as well as ensuring that low-income students have equal opportunities when it comes to education.
The district currently has no plans to charge families for the use of the iPads, although there will be costs associated with lost or damaged devices. Students and families will be educated on how to properly care for them. Those who repeatedly break or lose the devices will be required to take an iPad Academy class.
However, if handled properly, the school system believes they will be worth the investment.
"The iPads help all students have the confidence to learn," said Diane Smith, a fifth-grade teacher at Hamline Elementary.