Archived Story

A.L. schools may purchase iPads

Published 9:59am Wednesday, August 10, 2011

The Albert Lea School District may soon put iPad tablets in the hands of every second-grader and 90 students in junior and senior high.

Jim Quiram, director of technology and human resources for the district, said he’s been keeping the board informed on the possible purchase, which will most likely be up for a vote at Monday’s school board meeting.

“There’s not a ton of research about iPads, but there’s lots about one-to-one computing,” Quiram said.

The district has already been using one-to-one computing with iPod Touch devices, and Mary Williams, director of teaching and learning, said the amount of involvement from the kids is what made them want to look into getting more devices.

Quiram said research shows that when students use one-to-one computing devices that test scores go up, productivity increases, the student’s attitude toward school improves, engagement increases and students collaborate, write and problem solve more effectively.

“The more reading they can do, the better off they’ll be,” Williams said. “I think it’s something we need to explore as far as getting our students ready for life after graduation.”

Quiram said the district would like to target second-graders because if students don’t learn to read before third grade they are four times less likely to graduate high school. He said at third grade they are no longer learning to read, they’re reading to learn.

“We’re basing this on a lot of good research,” Quiram said.

The proposal includes iPad 2 devices for each second-grader and all second-grade staff and three carts of 30 iPad 2 tablets. One cart would go to Southwest Middle School and two would go to Albert Lea High School for project-based assignments. Classes could check out the carts to use.

The cost for the 16GB iPad 2 tablets, staff training from Apple and all supporting technology including carts, adapters and more would be around $210,000. Quiram said this money has already been fenced by the board for technology updates. In comparison, the school budgets $200,000 each year for replacing textbooks.

“We’ll take this one step at a time and see how successful it is,” Quiram said.

He and Williams both said other school districts have completely moved away from print textbooks, instead using devices to access e-books or digital textbooks online. Williams said it’s a possibility that the district may purchase more electronic devices in the future.

“We’re definitely eager to see the results,” Williams said.

Quiram said textbooks purchased by the school have online resources already and that information can be updated faster in online versions of textbooks. Kathy Niebuhr, the district’s media specialist, will be spearheading the project and training staff on the new technology.

“This is the right direction — kids aren’t afraid of technology,” Quiram said.

Board Chairman Bill Leland said that though he can’t speak for the rest of the board that he personally likes the initiative. The board will most likely vote on the measure at its regular board meeting at 5 p.m. Monday at Brookside Education Center.

“I think it makes a lot of sense and has been well-researched,” Leland said.