County schools announce plan to purchase iPads for students

Published 9:19 am Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Technology is constantly changing, and the Crenshaw County Board of Education has made a step to keep up with the times through the iLearn Initiative, which would put an iPad Mini in the hands of every student in grades 9 through 12 by the end of the year.

The plan was unveiled at Monday night’s Board of Education meeting.

Superintendent Randy Wilkes said that older students are the ones that need to be most familiar with technology.

Email newsletter signup

“These will be the first to go off to college to need that experience,” he said.

“This is something that we’ve been working on for a while,” Wilkes added. “When we set our objectives and goals for the upcoming year, putting a piece of technology in students’ hands was on the list.”

Wilkes said that the iPad Mini was chosen after reviewing a number of other devices, including the full-size iPad, Nexus 7 and Galaxy 7.

One perk of using the iPad is their expansive store of applications (or apps), and the school system’s current textbook company, McGraw-Hill, has more than 50 educational books available, Wilkes said.

Nearly 1,000 iPad Minis will be purchased, including 700 for students and 150 for every certified teacher, along with several backup units.

Each iPad costs $309, so the total for the project comes to $276,000.  The iPads will also be outfitted with a protective cover, which will cost between $10 and $15 each, for a total of around $8,500.

Wilkes pointed out that the initiative is being carried out with available money.

“Many other systems have had to ask for an additional tax, but we’re able to do this with the funds we have on hand,” he said. “We are also talking about a straight-out purchase, not a lease. These will be ours.”

There is also the potential for the school system to save money in the long-run.

If a teacher is able to find a suitable digital textbook, the four core classes could select an iBook at $14.99 each, or just under $60 per student for a total of $42,000 per year.

The approximate cost of a new physical textbook in only one of the core classes is $80, or $56,000.

“We can lease four new iBooks annually for the cost of buying one book,” Wilkes said.

There is also a roll-out plan for the iPads and implementing them in the system.

Some teachers will receive iPads by the end of this school year, and they will submit a list of useful apps and materials to be used.

The plan is to purchase devices for grades 11 and 12 over the summer to have them ready for fall classes.

“As we get accustomed to the infrastructure and see what we need to work on, we’ll have iPads for grades 9 and 10 by Dec. 2013,” Wilkes said.

There is a proposed $25 annual insurance fee for the devices, which students will be able to take home.

“Full restitution will be required if the device is stolen, lost of willfully damaged,” Wilkes said. “We will also have an opt-out policy.”

Students and their parents will have to attend a training session in order for the student to be issued an iPad.

Dates are currently set as follows:

Monday, July 22 at Brantley: 6 p.m. for Seniors and parents, 8 p.m. for Juniors and parents.

Tuesday, July 23 at Highland Home: 6 p.m. for Seniors and parents, 8 p.m. for Juniors and parents.

Thursday, July 25 at Luverne: 6 p.m. for Seniors and parents, 8 p.m. for Juniors and parents.

“We will discuss and endorse the policies, and have basic training for students and parents on maintenance and use,” Wilkes said.

He also said that students would be given a school e-mail address with the domain, and an Apple account.

The devices will be inventoried, engraved and equipped with a tracking application.  Monitoring apps will be put in place to keep certain programs from being downloaded.

Wilkes said that he believes there will be enough iPads in the system to have a mobile lab that is accessible to all students, even down to the kindergarten level.

“We’re excited about this,” he said. “For those of us with kids in college, you know this is the route things are going with programs like Blackboard.”