Christmas will come early this year for nearly 300 Eagle Point kindergartners who, on the first day of school, will receive an iPad — theirs to use in class for the school year.
The Eagle Point School District spent $264,438 on 720, 16-gigabyte iPads and iPad minis, the remainder of which will be used in social studies and language arts classrooms at Eagle Point and White Mountain middle schools, at Eagle Point High School and at Shady Cove School.
Like Medford, Eagle Point adopted the 2015 Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Collections, a language arts curriculum for sixth- through 12th-grade students that combines traditional group instruction with digital assignments and individualized instruction. The extra iPads were needed in the secondary classrooms to implement the new curriculum.
“It’s a dictionary. It’s a world atlas. It’s a GPS. It’s a telephone. It’s a camera. It’s music. It’s a calculator. It’s another tool,” said Allen Barber, the district’s human resources director. “The teacher is still the most important factor in the daily education of these children. Technology is just another tool for the students to use.”
The district will begin offering full-day kindergarten this fall. Full-day kindergarten will be implemented statewide in fall 2015.
“So many kindergartners are coming in not ready for kindergarten,” Barber said. “When we asked our kindergarten teachers, ‘What can we do to support you?’ This is one of the things they asked for.”
Over the last five years, the district purchased 450 iPod touches for the fifth-grade classrooms, and 1,010 Chromebooks and 1,566 iPads for the secondary social studies and language arts classrooms.
“We have almost 3,100 devices now, and we have about 4,000 students,” said Barber. “We’re getting really close to that one-to-one initiative.”
Other classrooms can “check out” these devices or access the desktop computers and laptops available in some of the classrooms and the labs.
Last fall, the district also adopted a “Bring Your Own Device” policy, in which students can use their personal devices in class and not be reprimanded.
“We want an atmosphere where students can bring their own technology or use the technology we provide,” Barber said.
“We could have stopped purchasing technology during the economic downturn, but we chose not to,” he said.
In 2012, the district conducted a study to figure out what devices students preferred. District staff assembled more than a dozen secondary students in a conference room, where they administered a fake test.
In the room, there were iPods, Chromebooks, iPhones, Dell laptops, MacBook Airs, iPads and a variety of other technology, old and new.
“Our goal was to see what kind of technology they would use,” said Barber. “But they all just grabbed what was in front of them. If everyone had been fighting over the iPads, we would have bought all iPads. But what we learned is they didn't really care.”
The district’s information technology staff will talk with teachers to find out what applications they would like to use. The IT staff can then download the app to all devices registered to a classroom, to a grade level, to a school site or districtwide, said David Whitehead, the IT supervisor.
Jennifer Fisher, one of the district’s systems administrators, said that in the past, it would have been quite a feat to add that much technology.
“But now I could add 50 iPads to our system in probably five minutes,” said Fisher, adding that she can manage all 2,016 of the district’s Apple devices from her desk.
When a student or teacher turns on one of the new devices, a district profile is immediately downloaded to prevent students from accessing “inappropriate” websites or stealing the device.
“If it’s stolen, they can’t use it unless we wipe our profile off it,” Fisher said.
Barber said one of the district’s MacBook Airs was recently stolen and then recovered after a local repair shop called the district to find out how to remove that profile.
This summer, in addition to the iPads, the district ordered 292 Chromebooks, 21 charging carts for the iPads and 360 keyboards so kids can use the iPads to take the Smarter Balance assessments this spring.
Reach education reporter Teresa Thomas at 541-776-4497 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her at www.twitter.com/teresathomas_mt.