ENGLEWOOD - We have all heard of stories of entire schools providing iPads for students to use in class. But, Englewood Public Schools has a bigger idea to give every student in every classroom in every school a digital edge.
"The single most powerful reason for doing this was that it puts in the hands of our kids, tools, they may not otherwise have," Karen Brofft, assistant superintendent, said.
Brofft knows that Englewood Schools serves a lot of low income families who don't always have access to laptops, smart phones, and tablets. She says that's why the school district spent $1.1 million to launch an district wide iPad initiative starting with all students from kindergarten to 8th grade this year.
"It probably will set us apart as one of those places where the entire district is able to implement it," Brofft said.
Students in summer school are already receiving their iPads. 7th Grader Matt Cogburn likes being part of an educational revolution.
"It makes it easier for me because I like using technology and stuff for learning," Cogburn said.
For teachers like Lisa Jackson, it means an evolution in teaching style.
"I'm going to have to learn to be a completely different type of teacher because it creates a whole new opportunity for me," Jackson said.
The iPads will not only allow students to download from a selection of 4,000 fiction and non-fiction books; Jackson says it creates a new dimension in the classroom of students using apps, creating videos, and performing exercises in critical thinking.
"What they are showing me right now is ways to solve math problems where on a piece of paper, that wouldn't happen as easily," Jackson said.
In her summer school class, students are creating a virtual lesson where they work out the math problems and explain to the iPad why they are performing the steps they are taking. It is all recorded and played back to the teacher and other students. Jackson says the iPads will allow her tailor her lessons to the different levels of her students.
"I can have, you know, Bob doing this activity and somebody else doing this activity and somebody else doing this activity," Jackson said.
The district was able use bond money left over from a bond election approved 10 years ago specifically for technology. It also rearranged some current budgetary items to come up about $1 million in funds to purchase the iPads and other hardware needed for the transformation. The Morgridge Family Foundation also granted another $100,000 to support the program.
With kids as young as 5 years old handling the iPads - a big question is what happens if students break them or lose them.
"It's going to be kind of hard because I'm a little clumsy," Cogburn said. "It's just going to help kids not like break anything and like be more responsible about their stuff."
The district will create a self-insurance pool which families can pay into to replace or fix damaged of lost iPads. Brofft says the premiums families pay will be based on their income level. But, she says when the district piloted the iPad program at one its middle schools last year, the kids were not the problem.
"Our drops and breaks and losses have been the adults in the system," Brofft said.
Last year, the district also graduated its first "all-digital" student. Carly Sellaro gave up pen and paper for nearly her entire senior year. She worked solely off of her iPad. Brofft says her example was a catalyst to launching this iPad initiative this year.
"It really allowed us to see how important it was to move this directive much quicker than we had expected to," Brofft said.
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