Tablet computers all the rage as schools get ready for Common Core [Ventura County Star, Calif.]
(Ventura County Star (CA) Via Acquire Media NewsEdge) Sept. 22--Tablet computers began inching their way into classrooms almost as soon as they came on the market about three years ago. This year, the touch-screen devices are entering schools full force through what educators call the "1 to 1 device" initiative.
What was once a novel and fun way of engaging students has become ubiquitous.
In the Oxnard School District, 8,000 iPads are in the process of being deployed at eight schools. By this time next year, they will be in the hands of every single student -- 17,000 in all -- fulfilling the "1 to 1" initiative.
"This is way different from when I went to school," said Shayla Vasquez, whose two daughters just received iPads at their Oxnard schools. "I remember when mechanical pencils were new. Time sure changed."
The Somis Union School District set aside $150,000 to buy about 90 iPads and 60 laptops.
"It's a big chunk of change but completely worth it," said Superintendent Colleen Robertson.
The Common Core academic standards, to be implemented in the 2014-15 school year, are one reason tablet computers have made a grand entrance into local classrooms. The new math and English standards are meant to be more rigorous, with a stronger focus on technology.
Starting in kindergarten, students will be expected to use "a variety of digital tools" with guidance from a teacher to produce and publish writing, under the new standards. Fourth-graders will be expected to use the Internet to produce and publish writing and type a minimum of one page in a single sitting.
Testing for the new standards, which could begin as early as this spring, will be done on desktop, laptop or tablet computers.
"We've got to get these devices into their hands before we test them," Robertson said.
Somis School got Wi-Fi this year -- no small feat because the 90-year-old school features 13-inch concrete walls. But Robertson said it was important to equip the campus with technology now, so when computerized testing begins, students won't be hindered by the gadgets.
"Technology is so embedded into Common Core. It's not an add-on, it's embedded," said Steve Carr, chief technology officer for the Ventura County Office of Education. "It is expected there are going to be huge 1 to 1 initiatives in the county."
Carr said the county could see one device for every child in two or three years.
As a teacher in the 1990s, Carr had some of the most advanced technology in his classroom in the Hueneme School District.
"I think I had some 30,000 feet of cable. These were big, beefy computers that were $2,000 apiece," Carr said. "It was an awesome way to engage kids in content."
One of Carr's biggest frustrations, however, was not being able to offer that technology once students went home.
The Oxnard School District sensed the same frustration and decided to let students take the new iPads home.
When the touch-screen devices, which come with sturdy shock-absorbent cases, were handed out last week, students weren't the only ones excited. Parents at Marshall School in Oxnard got to poke and swipe, too.
Because students have the option to take them home, the district led mandatory iPad training sessions for parents. They have the option of purchasing insurance for the devices at $47. Parents who don't opt for the insurance will have to pay for the iPad if they get damaged.
Assistant Superintendent Catherine Kawaguchi said the decision to allow the iPads to go home was an easy one. Students can read a story, look up a word or find a solution to a math problem on YouTube.
"Why would we not want them to do that?" Kawaguchi said. "If we don't allow them to go home, we're not allowing 24/7 learning."
In a district where 81 percent of students qualify for free or reduced-price lunches, having the iPads available both in and out of classrooms bridges a digital divide, Kawaguchi said.
"Our children have the same rights as the children over the (Conejo) grade," Kawaguchi said.
Most of the cost of the 17,000 iPads in Oxnard will be covered by state reimbursement of $9 million the district received for the construction of a Driffill School building. State funding for Common Core implementation will also help foot the iPad bill.
Last year, when teachers at Marshall School had access to iPads on a rotating basis, Kathy Orlinsky introduced it to her students for the first time. This year, with the "1 to 1" initiative, the third-grade teacher hopes to be completely paperless by the end of the school year.
One of Orlinsky's students, Stephanie Aguna, 8, said she likes to read to the iPad and then have the iPad read back to her.
"Books are good, too," Stephanie said. "But this is funner than books."
While Oxnard may be the most aggressive district in the county with its iPad initiative, it hardly is alone.
The Ocean View School District has 1,500 iPads for students of all grade levels. Each student in grades 6-8 has one.
The Ventura Unified School District has 300 iPads, which are used by students, teachers and administrators.
The Oxnard Union High School District has 700 tablet computers -- both iPads and Microsoft Surface. Last year, the district got Wi-Fi for a "bring your own device" initiative. Students and visitors are encouraged to "BYOD" to classrooms, cafeterias and football stadiums.
"There's no corner that's not covered," said Puneet Sharma, director of information technology services for Oxnard Union.
The district is working with local cities and an Internet service provider on federal grants for citywide Wi-Fi. The county Office of Education is also working with an Internet service provider to offer an alternative data plan for students to have 4G coverage at home.
"We want to provide Wi-Fi to the home so when kids come to school and go home, it's seamless," Sharma said. "They're always connected."
(c)2013 Ventura County Star (Camarillo, Calif.)
Visit Ventura County Star (Camarillo, Calif.) at www.vcstar.com
Distributed by MCT Information Services
[ Back To Technology News's Homepage ]