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iPads likely coming soon to Osakis classrooms

Children in the Early Childhood program in Brandon started using iPads in February 2012. The Osakis School District is also considering introducing the devices in its classrooms. (Echo Press file photo)

SmartBoards replaced blackboards, could textbooks be next?

During last week's Osakis School Board meeting, teachers demonstrated the feasibility of iPads replacing textbooks and becoming an everyday classroom tool.

"As you know, technology [use] is increasing," Osakis Superintendent John Peterka told the school board. "I've asked two teachers to come in and talk about how they would use iPads in their classrooms.

With an iPad in hand, math teacher Sarah Maddock told the school board that she envisions students having a digital notebook for each of their classes like precalculus, English, social studies and others.

"All the notes are sorted by date and everything's in one place," she said. During a lesson, she said a math problem would still be in the board in front of the class, but students would also have that same problem and lesson outline in front of them on the iPad. She said it would definitely cut down on time students spend copying notes by hand.

Maddock said, "With this, one of the ideas is to get away from the textbooks and the cost [of textbooks]."

She said most students don't use their textbooks a whole lot. Most will open the book to the assignment section and do the assignment, relying mainly on their notes and the work done together as a class.

"What I would do then, at the end of the slideshow, is make the next page their assignment and I would have the problems they need to do," she explained. "We would still have paper, pencil and notebook. And we still would do some things pencil-paper, like quizzes, because I think there's a comfort level there."

She also demonstrated an option for students to take a quiz on the iPad. The quizzes would automatically be graded by the software and results sent to the teacher.

Maddock said, "I see [the iPad] as a very useful tool, especially at the high school level. In my world, I can see it taking the place of textbooks."

Social studies teacher Chris Stroup also addressed the school board last week and, with an iPad in-hand, said there will still be a need for a textbook in some form for his classes.

"This is a chapter on the American Civil War and it can be differentiated for different learners, so I don't have to order six texts for low-end readers. We can adapt their version on the iPad. It eliminates that stigmatism of 'Johnny got a different text.'"

Stroup also demonstrated the potential for interactivity. For example, students can click on a photo on the screen and watch a brief video that details the life of a historic figure. At the end of a digital chapter, students can be asked an open-ended question and those responses can be sent directly to the teacher for grading.

"If you're looking at costs, the hard copy version of this book is $90 and in four years it's going to be obsolete. The digital version is $45 or $50 and it's updateable. Depending on the company, we'd get a six-year upgrade. You're not really going to see content upgrades. The history isn't going to change, it will be interactive changes."

Stroup also explained that a new geography class being offered for ninth grade next year doesn't have a traditional hardcover textbook. That's where a digital textbook will be used.

"If we need more Minnesota history, it can be added [to the digital version] for us," he said.

Each student will be assigned an iPad and have it to take home and use like a textbook.

COST

The exact cost for supplying iPads will be worked out for the April school board meeting.

However, Peterka told school board members the initial cost could come in around $200,000 for a total of 555 iPad Minis and cases, which works out to about $350 each. Funding would come from the district's operating capital and any savings that come from not buying consumables like workbooks, textbooks and paper.

In addition, a student technology fee of $40 has been recommended; it would be collected from students in grades 7-12.

The iPad initiative has yet to be approved by the school board.

Osakis Public School iPad Initiative goals:

--Increase student engagement in school

--Provide student and family access to digital content

--Provide access for students to pursue individual interests

--Create opportunities for the student to extend the learning day

--Better prepare students to meet the expectations of 21st century employers and institutions of higher learning

--Allow the district to provide the most up-to-date materials and information for students

Amy Chaffins

Amy Chaffins is a journalist working for the Echo Press newspaper in Alexandria, Minnesota.

(320) 763-3133
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