Hopkins Tech Plan Recommends iPads for Every Junior High Student

The proposal is part of a $3 Million plan.

iPads for every Hopkins junior high student is just one piece of a technology plan that promises to “blow up the capital project levy,” according the district’s head of technology.

Sid Voss presented a plan on Thursday that would sweep a tide of technology into all grades from elementary to high school. But a one-to-one iPad program at the junior highs would mean seventh- through ninth-graders would see the biggest changes under the plan—which is expected to cost about $3 million through the 2014-15 school year.

In addition to capital project money, the plan would also require a $200,000 transfer from the general fund.

The devices actually are not the major thrust of the technology plan, Voss said. The iPads are just the way that students will access the content and curricula that he said will “provide students with rich, engaging and personalized learning environments.”

Instead of adopting technology for its own sake, Voss said the plan aims for a phased-in approach that is “intentional” and “purposeful” and “transforms classrooms.”

He’s recommending a three-year rollout of technology at all grade levels that will allow teachers to train on new devices and produce necessary content.

  • Preschool through sixth grade: The district would add about 200 iPads annually for three years. This would not be a one-to-one program.
  • Junior high: The district would bring a one-to-one iPad program to the seventh grade in 2012-13, eighth grade in 2013-2014 and ninth grade in 2014-15.
  • High school: The district would add about 200 devices annually for three years. This would not be a one-to-one program, and they wouldn’t necessarily all be iPads. The district is currently testing Chromebooks—low-cost laptops focused on cloud-based programs like Google Apps—that could play a part in the mix.

The junior highs are the centerpiece of the district’s technology efforts because of how students that age use technology, school structures and experience testing the devices at that level, Voss said.

At the elementary, teachers don’t necessarily need all students to be using iPads at once. For example, the devices could allow part of a class to practice drills while the teacher works with another group.

At the high school, the district hasn’t really tested them out as much as it needs to. While it knows they are durable enough for elementary and junior high, the jury is still out for high school, Voss said. The Chromebook pilot will also shed further light on much of the new technology should be laptop-based.

By contrast, the junior highs have significant experience with iPads—notably with a pilot program for science classes. Director Wendy Donovan said the program caused one of her daughters to actually get excited about her science class—the only time Donovan’s seen that happen in sending three daughters through seventh-grade science.

“I think it’s student engagement that we’re really going to grow,” she said.

Junior high is also the point at which content and curricula really become king for the first time, and its team structure allows for more collaboration, Voss said.

“High school is a big place. There’s a lot going on there,” he said.

Some of the school board directors were unsure about the proposal. Director Kris Newcomer questioned whether the district was throwing too much on the junior highs at once. They just this year, and directors are discussing whether they should .

(Diane Schimelpfenig—director of teaching, learning and assessment—said the principals actually felt this was the best time to switch over because IB would require lesson design anyway.)

Newcomer also wondered whether Voss underestimated the amount it would take to train teachers and develop content.

“I don’t think you have enough budget to be real honest,” she said.

The price tag would require cuts in other areas because the district can’t afford to have this number of iPads and maintain the same number of computer labs, Voss said.

But this would be a transfer of priorities that reflects what each device does best. Computers would be used to create content, and iPads would be used to access content or personalize learning and instruction.

School Board directors must still agree to the proposal. They’ll discuss it as the budget process goes along—with the next budget discussion set for 5 p.m. Thursday.


How Much Would it Cost?

2011-12 $141,816 2012-13 $893,232 2013-14 $903,164 2014-15 $901,047
Chris February 25, 2012 at 04:08 PM
I like tech- shiny new things are fun. HOWEVER, the fact that there is not yet content for all this new hardware is a big red flag. Hardware costs are never much of the overall costs in a new software implementation. the development, and customization, of content will be the main cost in this project. It will also be the primary determinant of success. Right now, this sounds like a way for students to play Angry Birds and update their Facebook profiles. Pop culture skills will be learned regardless. If the goal is to get kids engaged, there are plenty of ways to do that. Example: a paintball or arrow can teach physics for less capital cost and needs no software development.


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