By Hub City Times Staff
MARSHFIELD — The Marshfield School Board’s recent decision to approve an initiative that will place an iPad in the hands of every student has been met with both praise and criticism from the community. We asked the four candidates for school board to weigh in on the issue with the April 5 election looming.
The candidates’ statements are in response to the following question:
Do you support the recent initiative to equip every student in the district with an iPad?
There are potentially many great advantages to having iPads integrated into the curriculum of the district, the greatest of which is the potential to accommodate individualized learning levels for every student. Districts are now held accountable for closing the learning gap of students. IPads may be the most efficient and effective way of accomplishing this. However, technology can be wasted if staff are not trained properly and have not “bought in” to the model, so I encourage extensive training.
There are many unanswered questions, however, not the least of which are what might be cut from the budget to pay for the iPads, how will those students in need utilize iPads at home without Wi-Fi, will the cost of insurance be passed onto families as a fee, and what is the projected cost savings? If elected as a board member, these questions — among many others I would ask — need to have answers as the program now moves forward.
I wholeheartedly support this initiative. The school board has been talking, planning, and preparing for this move for about 15 years. Other districts jumped in faster than Marshfield, and we were able to learn from their successes and mistakes. As with most things, this comes with pros and cons, but the pros outweigh the cons.
This technology opens up a world of opportunities for our students. All students will have more access to personalized learning opportunities.
The equity issue is a huge issue for me. In the past students were asked bring their own device. It places students who could not afford devices at a disadvantage. This will help all students.
This will be an ongoing expense for our district. It will cost about 1 percent of our budget annually, but we will be able to reduce our textbook and other computer purchases. I believe this is a wise use of our tax dollars.
Our society is moving to a more digital-based society. It is a fact of life. Our children need these tools in their toolbox to succeed. We will need to further train our teachers to get the most out of this purchase. We will need to make sure every child understands and executes good digital citizenship. This is a great initiative whose time has come.
Utilizing technology in the classroom enhances the learning process, and we should always be exploring new avenues. Currently, we are using various computer technologies, and I do not see that going away. We should always being weighing the benefits, costs, and potential outcomes whenever we approach a project of this size and magnitude.
The recent decision by the school board to approve the financial allocation of repurposed funds required much more discussion. I attended that special school board meeting and felt this decision was rushed through. This decision will most likely require the addition of a new staff member, a cost not included in the iPad expenditure. Furthermore, permitting more time for assessing the situation would have yielded a more cost effective result. For instance, some school districts keep those devices in school and share them amongst students.
In light of the impending referendum this fall, I felt this $370,000 initial expenditure — and $4.4 million over 10 years, not including the potential new staff position — should have been used more wisely. I am hearing those same concerns from many in the community as I visit with them. As a district we should have used those funds to offset the impending referendum.
Technology can be a great educational tool. Kids, today, use technology 24/7 in their everyday lives. It is the way they communicate and learn. Having one technology platform for students will make the classroom use of the iPads readily available to all and more consistent in all schools as a learning tool.
At recent committee and school board meetings, presentations were made by administrators to explain the iPad initiative. District administrators are hired as educational leaders. School boards take their lead from administration to finalize curriculum, set policy, and decide on funding for all areas of the budget. School principals and teachers implement the curriculum and policies.
I do have a couple of questions. Have staff members been surveyed by administration about use of the devices, and have they been involved in the planning? Teachers will be using the technology to develop lessons, support classroom learning targets, and monitor the use of the devices. Also, is there data or research available to show that using iPads improves student learning? I do not know the answers to these questions.
I do know that technology can be a valuable learning tool. Distributing the iPads to each student will at least ensure that all students have equal access to the technology.