Elizabeth Forward give tablet-sized computers to students, teachers next month

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Elizabeth Forward School District will distribute iPads to students and teachers next month.

High-schoolers will get their tablet-sized computers, with cases, Oct. 7-10; middle-schoolers, Oct. 17 and 21 and elementary students, Oct. 28-30.

Teachers also will get the devices, which have a 16-gigabyte storage capacity, next month. A total of 2,506 iPads or mini iPads will be distributed. The annual cost of the program, available through a lease with Apple Financial Services, is $370,480.

Sessions to explain the technology to parents will be held during distribution days.

Earlier this month, Mary Beth Wiseman, director of technology, gave a presentation to the school board about digital technology in learning. She said lesson plans, photos and video/audio lessons on iPads can replace some textbooks.

"How long before we replace textbooks with these?" director Robert Rhoderick asked.

"All of our textbooks have online textbook [versions] now," assistant superintendent Todd Keruskin responded. "We think down the road [students] will receive their iPads and load all books on them."

Mrs. Wiseman said teachers and students also can create their own books using the iBook Author program, which they can then put on a "shelf" in a virtual library that can be read by anyone on earth with an iPad.

She showed an iBook with photos that students created about reptiles and amphibians.

A teacher or students in any class will be able to make a wireless connection to Apple TV and show the class their work on their iPads up on the screen, she said. Apple TV plays content from a variety of local and Internet sources.

Mrs. Wiseman said the use of iPads with Apple TV is much more cost effective than using SMART boards, an interactive system that displays computer content on a white board on the wall. She said while a SMART board usually costs around $1,500, an Apple TV costs only $99, and teachers can use three interactive white board computer software applications free on Apple TV.

Mrs. Wiseman said administrators have asked teachers and those teaching grade levels to choose five or six software applications, called apps, for the iPads for this year. The apps are represented on the face of the iPads as computer icons.

One app, called StarWalk, correctly senses the location of the iPad user, and shows the student the positions of the stars, planets and satellites above that location, she said. The position of the stars is different in spring, summer, fall and winter.

Another app, Power School Student, will enable students and parents to keep track of student grades and assignments.

Mrs. Wiseman said parents will not be required to put any paid applications on the iPads.

The district will make both free and some paid apps available. Students will be able to go to their school libraries to download computer applications onto their iPads from a "configuration station" that can update about 20 handheld computers at one time, she said.

Mrs. Wiseman said students can put personal favorites, such as iTunes, on their school iPads, but said that information may be deleted if memory on the devices becomes too low.

Students' iPads will have red cases, Mrs. Wiseman said, and staff members' cases will be black She said every iPad case in the district will have its own global positioning system locator.

The iPads must be charged every night for 30 minutes to two hours, and then hold the charge for 10 hours, she said.

Students also will be made aware of rules for using their iPads, such as not giving out any personal information.

Mrs. Wiseman said the district's filter will work when the iPads are at students' homes as well as at school to protect students from seeing inappropriate websites. However, she said, new sites pop up on the Internet all the time, and some inappropriate sites might be visible to students for 24 hours before the filter blocks them.

Mrs. Wiseman said parents should monitor their children any time they use any Internet device, especially phones, because there are no filters on phones.

The iPad Manual will be printed on the district's website at efsd.net..

Mrs. Wiseman said the iPads have speaking capacity for the hearing impaired.

And when it comes time to apply to colleges, students can show admission representatives work they have done on their iPads, she said.

"We're going to call it a digital portfolio," she said.

Students' portfolio information will be stored in the district's data warehouse on the Ed/Insight program, she noted.

Mrs. Wiseman said optional insurance that will cover replacement of the hand-held computers will be available for $20 for two years.

If something does happen to an iPad that is not covered by insurance, the student will have to pay the full price of $499 to replace it, she said.

The district will work with parents who can't afford to pay the $20, she said, by calling her or by emailing iPads at efsd.net. Parents can also choose to have their children leave the iPads at school to protect the units, she said.

Teachers will make allowances for students who don't have wireless connections at home by printing out Internet lessons required for homework or by helping in other ways, Mrs. Wiseman said.

Under the lease agreement with Apple Computers that was approved by the board in June, each student in kindergarten through second grade will receive an iPad mini, students in grades three through 12 will receive an iPad, and teachers will receive a laptop and an iPad.

Administrators also will receive a laptop and iPad under the agreement, and school directors will each get an iPad and case.

education - neigh_east - neigh_south

Anne Cloonan, freelance writer: suburbanliving@post-gazette.com.


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