By Adam Hocking
MARSHFIELD — The Marshfield School Board has approved an initiative that will put an iPad in the hands of every student districtwide over a three-year period starting with next school year. The decision came during a special meeting of the board on Monday night.
Board member Mary Carney represented the lone vote against approving the initiative, and board members Mark Konrardy and Dorothy Chaney were absent.
A historic initiative financially
Over the next 10 years, the iPad plan will result in a projected net increase to the district’s budget of just under $4.4 million, including funds for device storage cases, charging accessories, professional development of teachers to help them effectively use the devices, and ensuring the district’s network can support the influx of new technology. The total number of devices that will be distributed is 4,130.
Not included in that cost is the potential addition of a staff member who would assume the role of a technology integration specialist and would be “integral” in assisting this iPad initiative, said the district’s Director of Information Technology Mike Drevlow. Drevlow noted that in dealing with technology, projecting cost 10 years into the future is tenuous as device prices are going down as a general trend.
“This is one of those that is a large financial initiative for us, probably the largest I’ve ever been involved with as far as a curricular initiative,” said the district’s Director of Business Services Pat Saucerman. He noted that because of the mild winter this year, some funds reserved for snow removal, diesel fuel, and heating costs could be reallocated to “jump-start our launch of this project.”
“To make this happen financially is going to require us to find room in our operational budget because as of right now, we have no reason to believe there will be additional revenue available for us to do this type of thing, so it means then that other things within the caps that we have to work with are going to have to go,” Saucerman said.
The district will stagger the rollout, giving devices to every student in kindergarten through eighth grade in the first year of the program, spend the second year making sure the process is working well in terms of implementation and staff training, and distribute devices to high school students in year three.
The logic of starting with younger students, the district’s Director of Teaching and Learning Kim Ziembo indicated, is to instill a familiarity early in their academic careers with using technology for schoolwork.
“As the student grows, so does the program grow,” Ziembo said.
Drevlow noted that the iPad was a good fit for the district because of features like its touch screen and the “diversity of the apps that are available” and that iPads also tend to hold their value well.
The district will lease the iPads from one company, and then a separate company will buy them back, allowing replacement of the devices with newer ones after every three years of use.
“We wanted to try and find a way to guarantee that we always had high quality resources in the hands of kids,” Saucerman said of leasing instead of buying the devices.
Ziembo referred to the iPad as “instructional technology,” emphasizing that the device is a way to enhance a teacher’s skill set rather than replace it.
“It’s really not about the devices. It’s about the student learning and the instruction that’s happening,” Drevlow said.
Ziembo said devices like an iPad can help the district personalize each student’s education.
“Technology is absolutely not required for personalized learning, but it is an absolute essential tool to do it,” Ziembo said. By creating a personalized approach to education, teachers could more effectively tap into the motivations and passions of students, Ziembo said.
Efficiency, Drevlow noted, is an additional benefit of implementing the iPads. He gave the example of teachers posting a test or an assignment online rather printing copies for every student in class. In the example of a multiple choice assessment, technology could also instantaneously grade the test, saving teachers time.
Making sure students can access what they need to while also keeping them away from websites they should not visit will also be important, Drevlow said.
Another significant aspect of the initiative is what the district calls “equity,” the fact that every student will have a device and thus have the same access to resources.
Ziembo said the “one-to-one” approach of having a device for each student is becoming the norm in many districts.
“We’re finding that we’re slipping sort of behind the movement,” Ziembo said.