RANCHO SANTA FE — The Rancho Santa Fe School Board agreed May 1 to expand the use of iPads in fifth- and sixth-grade classrooms for the coming academic year.The board unanimously voted to spend $117,000 on 246 new iPad 2 devices, including associated cables and cases. Each device has 16 GB of storage and Wi-Fi capability.The purchase will allow the R. Roger Rowe School to assign a school-owned iPad to every student in fifth through eighth grade beginning this fall. The school will supply all other classrooms with one iPad for every two students.
The school began using iPads last fall. In the first year of the program, school-owned iPads were individually assigned only to seventh- and eighth-graders, while all other classrooms were supplied with six iPads each.
The 246 new iPads will be added to the stock of 410 iPads the school has purchased in the last year.
While seventh- and eighth-grade students are expected to take their iPads home for study and homework uses, Superintendent Lindy Delaney said administrators have not yet decided whether fifth- and sixth-grade students will be allowed to take the devices home next year.
The district chose to expand the iPad program because teachers saw better than expected results this year, said Assistant Superintendent Cindy Schaub.
“Kids are in fact communicating more and more with their teachers,” Schaub said. “We’ve definitely seen an increased volume in reading and writing.”
Giving every student an iPad allows teachers to expand their use of Canvas, a software tool teachers use to coordinate online learning. Without an individually assigned iPad, some students have limited access to Canvas features at home, Schaub said.
“We see them as an organization tool,” Schaub said. “(Students) know exactly what they’re working on. The learning is definitely being extended beyond the classroom.”
Schaub said she hopes to see lighter backpacks as classrooms transition to iPads, but some elementary and middle school educational content is not yet available in an iPad format.
Administrators said most teachers and parents have reacted positively to the program, but not everyone is satisfied.
Parent Beth Nelson said software updates and technological glitches caused unnecessary distress and confusion for her seventh-grade daughter, who twice suffered a total loss of data on her iPad despite backup attempts.
“I feel like this year would have been more productive and less stressful with the old-fashioned paper and pencil,” Nelson said.
She also questioned whether younger students have the maturity necessary to stay focused on their learning when the iPad provides so many opportunities for distraction.
Superintendent Delaney said she felt “horrible” about the data losses, but those kinds of technical issues were isolated. She also said she asks teachers not to penalize students when they cannot complete their work due to unavoidable technical glitches.
To prevent students from accessing inappropriate content, the iPads are configured so that only administrators at the school can install new apps. Internet access is automatically filtered to age-appropriate content, and students and parents are required to agree to an “acceptable use” policy before they can take home an iPad.