St. Paul schools plan iPad’s role — and heed cautionary tales
|By Mila Koumpilova, Pioneer Press, St. Paul, Minn.|
|McClatchy-Tribune Information Services|
The district is putting the finishing touches to a leasing deal with Apple: Half of its almost 70 schools will provide a tablet to each student in the fall; the rest will follow suit in 2015.
The news sparked questions: What will the technology cost? Is the district ready?
Some districts in
Even passionate advocates for classroom technology say that more often than not, districts are still rushing onto an
"The promise of education technology in the past 30 years has been, 'Just buy our product and you'll be successful,' " said
For the district, the stakes are high. In 2012, leaders told taxpayers who backed their
Instead, they highlighted a
To help prepare teachers for the possible influx of tablets in the fall,
To some technology advocates, that's a decidedly underwhelming example. But in some
They were working on a challenge for next year's fifth-graders: a virtual house hunt in which students will practice six-digit subtraction by juggling home prices, closing costs and budgets.
"We're making a game out of math and having a lot of fun," student
Nearby, other students used their iPads to work independently on filling knowledge gaps: long division for one student, means and medians for another. They could click on short video lessons if they needed a refresher.
Special education co-teacher
Young said it troubled her sometimes that other classrooms at her school don't have the access to tablets her class enjoys.
"This is a huge step for our district to finally bridge that digital divide," Young said of the new district plan. "It was not fair."
The Apple effort was announced on the same day this month that district leaders said they were scrapping the Dell deal. That project would have created a platform for teaching and learning, where students would have access to lessons and tests, teachers would monitor their progress and parents would keep up with school work.
Ending the project was "a courageous decision," Superintendent
For school board member
"What I am afraid is we're jumping from the frying pan to the fire," he said.
Officials, who haven't made public a list of
In recent years, districts large and small have launched bold initiatives to distribute devices to each student -- only to falter and rethink their timelines. Officials in
Some pioneers of equipping each student with a computer, such as
Dronen, a former
The past couple of years have done little to reassure education technology skeptics such as
"Just equipping students with technology without first defining the goals you are trying to achieve and the problems you are trying to solve is a mistake we often see districts make," Horn said. "You want to be wary of technology for technology's sake."
In the metro area, more districts are undertaking device initiatives, sometimes dipping their toes with one school or in a handful of classrooms.
"I'd be surprised if there are any districts that haven't at least considered it," said
TEACHERS TAKING THE LEAD
Officials in some districts that by all accounts have had successful rollouts swear by a more gradual approach.
The district is providing devices to all its sixth-grade teachers now, so they have a full academic year to get comfortable and adapt their curriculums before their students get iPads in 2015-16.
"We want to make sure there is an (educational) shift along with the technology integration," said
Districts and experts agree that training for teachers is paramount. Bartley said much training still focuses primarily on how to operate the devices rather than on how to harness them to overhaul learning.
For instance, educators who want to "flip" their classrooms -- let students watch lessons at home and save class time for questions and hands-on work -- need to learn how to record video lectures. But more important, they need guidance on how to make the most of the freed-up class time.
There are many other important decisions a district such as
Districts also need to reckon with an increasingly vocal group of parents who see a value in limiting screen time.
Meanwhile, some districts report their technology efforts are paying off.
"What stood out was how embedded the technology was in the teaching and learning," Dronen said.
"If done right, the technology fades behind the scenes."
Mila Koumpilova can be reached at 651-228-2171. Follow her at twitter.com/MilaPiPress.
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