Killingly High School explores iPad program

By Denise Coffey - Staff Writer
Killingly - posted Mon., May. 6, 2013
- Contributed Photo

Killingly High School teacher Bethany Knowlton is the first to admit that the school's one-to-one laptop program has had its share of controversy since its start five years ago. But the agriculture education teacher and chair of the school's Technology Committee believes that the program is necessary to make sure that students have the tools they need to succeed after high school.

“I went to dinner the other night and the waiter had an iPad on his wrist,” she said. “This technology is being used everywhere.” What she and the committee and a handful of students in an internship class have been studying over the last year is how to transition the laptop program into an iPad program. It's a move she believes would save money while providing crucial skills to students and teachers.

She gave several reasons for advocating the switch to iPads. Chief among them was the educational benefits it would give students. “It would level the playing field,” she said. “It's really important that all kids are getting the same opportunity.” The iPads would allow students and teachers to do more project-based learning, which is more collaborative and interactive. And the cost would be less than the laptop program.

According to Superintendent of Schools Kevin Farr, the iPad program would cost about $170,000 a year, or $40,000 less than the laptop program. “We believe there would be less maintenance,” he said. The proposal would provide each student with an iPad, a case to carry it in, and a keyboard for ease with typing.

Library media specialist Wendy Durand acknowledged that students would need an adjustment period to get used to the iPads. “We have to be honest,” she said. “We recognized early on that keyboards would be essential to the success of the program.”

Durand and six students are working through some of those difficulties in a pilot internship program this year. Her students are testing out different cases and keyboards before making recommendations to the technology committee. And they are trying to solve problems before they happen. The biggest question is whether all assignments and applications currently being used will be supported by iPads, aAnd if not, what substitutes can be put in place to meet the curriculum expectations. “We've been a laboratory for vetting issues and questions that might come up,” Durand said.  

The students have assisted at two professional development days and will be paired up with teachers for one-on-one instruction. “That's including familiarizing them with iPads, showing them how it might work for their classes, and what applications they might want to use,” Durand said.

The students also visited Burlington High School in Massachusetts to see how that school handled a similar iPad program. They had a chance to talk directly with students using the iPads. The visit convinced student Aarron Albee that the program was a good one.

“What impressed me was that the students could use them whenever they wanted,” he said. “We're only allowed to have our laptops out at certain times.”

Knowlton said the team got information on how they deployed the program, how they handed out iPads, and how they managed it. “We aren't going into this blindly,” she said.

Not everyone is convinced the program is necessary or that its costs will be less than the laptop program. “I don't think it's an efficient program,” Brian Gosper said. “It's very costly and I've heard anecdotal evidence that 60 to 70 percent of the time, they aren't being used for schoolwork. To automatically hand one out to everyone who comes through the door – I don't support that.”

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