St. Marys Journal Argus
For the past few years, administrators with the Avon Maitland District School Board have chosen to embrace the ongoing technological revolution in personal communications, by encouraging students to “bring your own device” — such as a smartphone or tablet computers — to the classroom. Now, the board says it’s ready to take the next step by putting iPad tablet computers in the hands of every single intermediate-level — and, eventually, senior-level — student.
On Tuesday, Nov. 26 at Mitchell District High School (MDHS), the board held a news conference to announce that, beginning in late January, 2014, Grade 7-8 students in five Avon Maitland schools — MDHS, Seaforth, Huron Centennial, Hullett Central, and Clinton — will be provided with iPad tablet computers for use at school and at home. The initial roll-out will also include equipping each of those classrooms — if they don’t already have it — with adequate wireless connectivity to handle the iPad invasion.
The ultimate plan — which Avon Maitland communications manager Steve Howe says “will spread out fairly rapidly across the district” — is to provide an iPad to every Grade 7-8 pupil currently in the board, and leave it with that student until they complete their secondary school education. A new set of iPads would be made available each September to incoming Grade 7 students.
“We’ve been investigating this over the past couple of years . . . and we’ve been, whenever we could, putting some money aside to begin to pay for this program,” Howe said, when asked about the projected $250,000 initial cost of roll-out for the iPads.
He added that the board hasn’t yet broken down the annual cost to maintain the program because too many variables within that cost are too hard to pin down ahead of time. But he predicted the actual iPads and the “suite” of programs that come with them from the Apple corporation will — as is often the case with computer technology — gradually come down in price.
Even under the existing strategy, Howe noted the brought-from-home smartphones and iPods weren’t to be used for socializing during instruction time. Instead, teachers have been trained to facilitate the use of such technologies as learning aids. By now, however, the majority of students who were able to supply their own devices have done so. And, because those devices run on a range of operating systems and feature a range of computer programs, it’s a less-than-perfect model.
This new model, with teachers being trained prior to iPad introduction specifically to work within the Apple operating system, will make it easier to take full advantage of what modern communications technology has to offer.
The Apple operating system is already strongly represented in Avon Maitland schools, with over 2,000 board-owned devices already in use, including “iPad carts” that are wheeled from room to room.
“Our plan is to work with the schools and the teachers to move toward a model where the iPad is the predominant teaching and learning tool in the classroom,” offered Avon Maitland Education Director Ted Doherty, during Tuesday’s announcement.
Howe added that, when considering the program, board administrators looked closely at a Strategic Plan finalized last year that included “the 4 C’s and a P”: communication, collaboration, creativity, critical thinking, and problem solving. “We’re looking at this as a new way to embed these (elements) into our schools,” he said.