The Haines School District is asking for school board approval to implement a school-wide one-to-one laptops and iPads for students program.
It’s a recommendation from a task force called Engaging the Future that deals with how classrooms can use technology in more effective, up-to-date ways. At a workshop Tuesday night, board members debated whether it’s worth it to spend thousands of dollars to bring more technology into the school.
Engaging the Future started a few months ago with a presentation from an Apple representative about teaching with technology. Since then, a group of school staff has been meeting to come up with a plan, which they presented at the last school board meeting. The plan includes one-to-one laptops or iPads for all grades – which would cost $120,000 — and a technology specialist to guide teachers in using that tech for learning.
But some school board members are hesitant about one-to-one.
“How is this going to look on a daily basis in the classroom?” board member Lisa Schwartz asked. “Instead of the kids reading a book in their free time are they going to be playing games on their iPad? I mean, how is this going to look?”
School board member Brian Clay said he has heard from five different parents who said they would pull their children from school if one-to-one laptops and iPads are implemented.
“They are worried their kids are gonna walk in at 8 o’clock or whenever school starts, they’re gonna have a computer in front of their face til 3 o’clock,” Clay said.
First grade teacher Sophia Armstrong was one of a couple teachers at the meeting who advocated for one-to-one. She gave this example of how she’d like to use iPads in the classroom.
“For math I split my kids into two groups, half go to the computer lab and do fast forward, half stay with me and then we switch. And that works really well, but there’s a math program called Math-Whizz that tutors them at their level. I would much rather that 30 minutes be spent on a program that’s helping them with math at their level. I mean, that’s where it’s like there’s more flexibility.”
Right now, high school students already have one-to-one, but the rest of the grades have to share laptops and iPads between classrooms.
“Just throwing 20 iPads and saying ‘here, primary [grades,] share them.’ We’ve seen it’s not quite working and so that’s what this plan is trying to solve,” Armstrong said.
Principal Cheryl Stickler says she’s seen technology used in inspiring ways, like helping a non-verbal student with interaction. She says without one-to-one, some students are deprived of opportunity.
“We live in the 21st century,” said Stickler. “Our students our growing up in a digital world. Yeah, it looks different. It does look different. We are doing our students a sincere disservice not giving our students certain access. They deserve certain access.”
At a recent state accreditation visit, Haines School scored well in most areas. But a couple scores were lower than the rest, including the technology score and the student-driven learning score.
Superintendent Ginger Jewell thinks more technology, and more effective teaching using tech, will help the school improve in those areas.
“I think that it says something when I’m informed of students who are currently in middle grades who are talking about dropping out as a middle grader, because they are so disengaged in school right now,” Jewell said. “So we have to get them long before they get to 16. We have to get to them much younger so that they are engaged in learning.”
Some school board members suggested rolling out one-to-one tech in the middle grades before extending it through elementary. The board asked administration to come up with a few options to choose from.
“You know, when I look at the whole picture of the technology, it’s not all or nothing,” said Schwartz. “We can do this in more increments. There needs to be a pace to this people can absorb.”
The board also gave informal approval for a Title 2A grant-funded technology specialist position. That person wouldn’t work with students — but teachers — to train them in using classroom technology in innovative ways.
The school board will revisit the question of how much money to spend on new technology at a May 7th workshop.