LIMA — Temple Christian sixth-grader Anna Acklin spent this year using a school-issued iPad in class and at home. She considered herself lucky, until learning kindergartners at her school will get iPad Minis next year.
“Wow,” Anna said with an amazed look on her face. “They are lucky. That seems really young. It just makes me feel jealous.”
Schools around the region are adding more technology to their classrooms. Some are giving students, usually in high school, their own devices. Temple is taking things further than most.
After giving every high school student a laptop for home and classroom use in 2007, Temple this year expanded to sixth- through eighth-graders, who all have iPads. Next school year, kindergartners through fifth-graders will get iPad Minis.
Technology Director Jared Rex said the devices will be kept in the classrooms. Pupils will have email accounts (only able communicate with other school accounts), and teachers will be able to use education applications.
“The neat thing is, with all the applications, it just gives you lots of opportunities for reinforcement and manipulatives to help enhance the education with those younger students,” Rex said. “They can be used in the music class to learn notes, or art class to take pictures and manipulate and draw on the pictures.”
Rex believes introducing younger pupils to the devices will better prepare them for middle school and high school, where school officials hope to move to an electronic curriculum within three years.
Molly Collins, who teaches middle school language arts and reading, suspects the early exposure will make it easier for pupils to dive right into what she wants them to do in middle school. They won't need time to learn to navigate devices.
A year ago, Collins’ students waited in line to take reading quizzes on the two computers in the room. Today, they take those quizzes on their iPads, use fun grammar and spelling applications and do projects, including a recent video project.
“I think there is just more opportunities. You don’t feel limited,” Collins said. “The kids get it in a more interesting and an exciting way. It is better for them because they are more tuned in.”
Anna and her classmates were excited when they got their iPads at the beginning of the school year.
“We had never used technology before at our age at school,” she said.
Anna talks of applications that allow pupils to edit sentences and another that lets them look at stars and galaxies. She uses her iPad every day to take notes, write essays and keep track of assignments.
“You don’t have to bring so many extra things because you do a lot of it on your iPad,” she said. “It is a lot of fun, and it is probably teaching us how to type and use computers better than just having one in class.”
The one-to-0ne concept of every student having a computer or some other device is popular but not always financially feasible. Temple’s program is funded through auxiliary services money the school gets. Lima Central Catholic High School recently announced each student will get an iPad next school year at no cost to families.
Some schools are moving toward a “bring your own technology” to school program, where pupils are permitted to bring iPads, Kindles and other devices from home. St. Marys schools was the first in the region to do this, starting slowly last year. This year, more than 30 percent of third- through 12th-grade pupils bring devices, largely cell phones and iPod Touches.
“I expected more to go out and get kids a device to use in class. It is happening, but not at the pace I anticipated,” said district technology coordinator Kyle Menchhofer, who added that with limited lab space and computers in classrooms, the program is great for pupils bringing devices in.
For the past five years, every St. Marys third- through fifth-grader received a smartphone. The district most recently partnered with Alltel, but just paying for the Internet has been difficult for the cash-strapped district that saw a levy for new operating money fail this month. The devices were taken away last week.
“School finding is getting cut more and more, so now districts have to come up with more money which means they can’t buy the technology,” Menchhofer said.
Bath High School students will all get laptop computers next school year for home and school use. Juniors have them this year as part of a pilot program. Students will use digital textbooks for all core courses and some electives. Superintendent Dale Lewellen suspects eventually all courses will dump paper textbooks.
“I believe, and the leaders in this district share my belief, that education is headed there. We may not be out in front of it right now, but we need to be as close to in front of it as possible,” Lewellen said. “Kids live in a digital world when outside of school. They shouldn’t have to step back in time when they come to school.”
After getting the new program up and running, Lewellen said, officials will likely access expanding to the middle school. The elementary school is a possibility in the future. Younger pupils, Lewellen said, likely would keep their devices at school.
Even the Bath school board is going paperless. Starting in April, board members looked at and took notes on an electronic version of the agenda. Some brought their own devices. Lewellen said it is a savings in time and money.
“I used to drive the agenda around to the board members, and then my secretary had to make enough copies and take time to put everything in binders,” he said.
The board wants to get to the point where anyone can come to a meeting and access to the agenda online. For now, paper copies are available for meeting guests who need them.
The school board will get an update on the high school technology changes at its 7:30 p.m. Tuesday meeting at the administrative building. The update will come at the beginning of the meeting.