By Wayne Gates –
The Ipad program in the Georgetown Exempted School District has been underway for about two years now.
Every student in grades three through twelve now have the device for a total of about 800.
Next year, the district plans to make an Ipad available to every student K-12.
Superintendent Chris Burrows said that the many benefits of the program include a higher level of student engagement because they are used to technology and greater flexibility for teachers.
If the teachers want a new application for their class to use, for example, they simply download it. That sort of flexibility is not possible with traditional textbooks.
Parents pay a sixty dollar annual fee for the devices, but Burrows said that the rewards of the program are well worth the money.
“The decision came down to closing the opportunity gap. Some students did not have access to technology because of limited income or other family circumstances. This program allows every student to have an equal opportunity to learn and grow,” Burrows said.
“Public education is the great equalizer in all walks of life. We want to give every student the chance to walk across that graduation stage and be ready for anything.”
Burrows said that teachers are benefitting from the program as well.
“The opportunity that they have every day continue to grow with new apps being developed, new platforms for them to collaborate on,” he said.
Burrows said that the devices also help kids who are a little hesitant to speak up in class.
‘We’ve seen kids who are opening up in classroom discussion because of the Ipads. A lot of these kids would never talk before, but they participate through the written discussions and give great insight and feedback in class.”
Burrows said that the district is now also able to discuss how students need to be careful in a modern world.
“We’ve been able to teach internet safety as a course in the first three weeks of the school year and really head off some issues that could be very destructive for kids. With the Ipads in their hands, they have that tool at their disposal and we’ve been able to have very rich discussions with the kids about joining social media sites and how to stay safe online,” he said.
Burrows said that the students are also taught how to analyze true and false information online and to develop their critical thinking skills.
As far as the impact on test scores, Burrows said “We’ve seen drastic progress with the amount of indicators we met on our state report card this year versus last. We are seeing quicker progress than schools that are comparable to us and I attribute that to the technology.”
Burrows said that he has also felt personally rewarded by people telling him how much they appreciate the devices.
“A couple of years ago when we first handed these things out, a grandmother came up to me and thanked me,” Burrows said
“She told me that she couldn’t afford a computer, so she had been putting off getting the internet. But she said that now that the kids had the Ipads, she was going to get the internet for them at home. Stories like that tell me that it was the right move to close the opportunity gap.”