Kingsland goes whole hog in digital devices

/ 21 April 2012 / jennifer

Matthew Stolle, Rochester Post-Bulletin, April 21, 2012 –

SPRING VALLEY — Kingsland public schools and its 640 students will jump into the digital device era with both feet in the fall.

How it works

The project at Kingsland will work this way:

• Students in grades three through six will get an iPad as part of a one-to-one program.

• Students in grades kindergarten through second will have access to an iPad in the classroom.

• Students in grades nine through 12 will receive netbooks.

• The only group of students not covered in the first year will be seventh- and eighth-graders, who will receive netbooks the following year.

On Monday, the Kingsland School Board approved a proposal to put either a netbook or iPad in the hands of the vast majority of the district’s students.

“I believe it very much increases the engagement of students in learning,” said Kingsland Superintendent John McDonald. “And when you combine that with good teaching, we believe learning will increase and go up.”

The decision puts Kingsland in league with other area districts, such as Dover-Eyota and Stewartville, that have pursued one-to-one programs. But unlike the phase-in approach used by most districts, Kingsland is moving aggressively to equip students with a digital device. In two years, all of its 640 students will have daily access to either tablets or netbooks in the classroom, if not part of a one-to-one program outright.

Kingsland’s approach is unique in another way. Unlike some districts that have opted to use either netbooks or iPads exclusively, Kingsland will use both devices: iPads for the elementary grades and netbooks for the high school level.

McDonald said the “very interactivity” of the iPad, with its graphics and learning apps, makes it an ideal tool for students in the elementary grades, while the netbook is seen as a “productive instrument” more commonly seen in high schools, colleges and the business world. Also, netbooks are generally cheaper than iPads.

McDonald said Kingsland will lease the iPads but buy the netbooks. The cost to the district to lease 275 iPads will be about $44,000 annually for each of the next three years, with the option to buy the devices for $1 apiece at the end of the contract. A first-year expense for apps, protective cases and plug-in carts will add another $32,000 to the technology bill.

Kingsland will spend another $50,000 to buy 165 netbooks, adding to the 60 netbooks the district bought last fall.

The district also plans to hire a technology specialist to provide more technology support and help teachers use the devices in the classroom. More training dollars will be spent to help teachers with the technology.

McDonald said the district has been looking at the financial issues and educational benefits of such a move for more than two months. One district that it looked at closely was in Little Falls, which is in the second year of an iPad project. McDonald said he got a chance to question a group of Little Falls sixth-graders about their use of the machines.

“All their books were on their iPads, and it was simply amazing what they were able to do,” McDonald said. “I remember them saying that after a year’s use of the iPad, it would be difficult to go back to paper and pencil.”

McDonald said teachers are excited.

“They are looking forward to it because they see that we’re committed to it,” McDonald said. “They also see that we will be providing support and training for them to use what we feel is a very powerful and engaging tool for students.”