iPads are making their way through the Little Falls School District and beginning next school year, every fifth- through 12th- grade student in the district will be equipped with one.
The Little Falls School Board this week unanimously approved the Project Resources to Engage All Learners or Project REAL for short, which includes purchasing 1,450 iPads. The district entered into a three-year lease agreement with American Capital for $1.1 million, at an interest rate of 2.374 percent, for the iPads and the hardware and software that comes with them.
Having iPads in the district is not new for Little Falls. Two fifth-grade classrooms have used iPads as a pilot project since the start of this school year and the project quickly evolved to more middle and high school students getting their hands on the technology.
The district spent about $91,000 from its capital funds this year to purchase the iPads and Superintendent Curt Tryggestad said the money for the additional iPads will come out of the same fund. Tryggestad said the district spends about $200,000 a year on curriculum and the iPads are considered an investment for the district.
Tryggestad said the district will purchase iPad 2s for its sixth- through 12th graders and the fifth-graders will keep the old iPad 1s. Tryggestad said the district has a three-year warranty on the iPads and when the lease is up and/or depending on the technology updates, the older iPads could go to the elementary school students. The iPads would be required to stay in the schools and not be taken home.
The district plans to initiate a technology fee for all students when they get their iPads in the beginning of the 2011-12 school year. That fee could be $40 per student.
Tryggestad said staff will receive the iPads in May and staff development days have been scheduled for training.
“We have to provide the training,” said Tryggestad. “It’s both exciting and daunting. The best analogy I can use is that it’s like plowing a field that has never been plowed before. You will hit a rock once in awhile, but you have to get back in line and keep on going ... We can’t wait for all the answers, otherwise we’ll never get started. We think this is the best thing we can do for our kids and the community.”
School board chair Robert Stoltman said Thursday he’s excited for the technology advancements the school district is making. Stoltman said there are not a lot of school districts in the state using iPads and to have a small town like Little Falls make the decision and plan for the iPads is an accomplishment.
Stoltman said that students can learn so much by having an iPad. He said staff also will have iPads and the students can teach the teachers how to use them and vice versa.
“Our biggest concern through this all is getting our staff up to speed on the technology,” said Stoltman. “The students are not scared of them and they love to explore, but adults are more worried that they’ll break.
“We’re ordering the iPads immediately and as soon as they are here the staff can work on them.”
Stoltman said one thing that excited him about having iPads was that special education students will be able to use them, just like the rest of the student population. Stoltman said having all students using the same teaching tools is “pretty cool.”
“I’m happy that everyone is embracing this,” said Stoltman “... The public at first was optimistically curious on how this would work. This is a new event in any school in the U.S. to be at this level ... there are a lot of school districts that are five years away from this and some will embrace it but may be doing it on a shaky foundation. We’ve remodeled for this technology.”
Tryggestad said Project REAL is just not about the iPads, but it’s a project that uses educational opportunities through advanced digital technology to help students prepare for their future. Tryggestad said the project goals the board set are to increase student engagement in school; provide student and family access to digital content; provide access for students to pursue individual interest; create opportunities for the student to extend the learning day; better prepare students to meet the expectations of 21st Century employers and institutions of higher learning; and allow the district to provide the most up-to-date materials and information for students.
JENNIFER STOCKINGER may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 855-5851.