Schools to hand out iPads

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Technology comes to Englewood classrooms in a big way in September as each fourth- through eighth-grader will be issued an iPad they can use in school or at home.

“We have been discussing this program for about three years and last year, we ran a pilot program as we issued an iPad to every Englewood Leadership Academy student,” said Brian Ewert, school superintendent. “The pilot program was a great success. Some teachers were skeptical in the beginning but found the system worked well for them and for the students. We issued 72 iPads and got every one of them back undamaged.”

To implement the program, the school district is purchasing about 2,000 iPads at a cost of about $1.1 million. The project was assisted by a $100,000 donation from the Morgridge Family Foundation, plus the foundation will pay the cost of renewing the license for the next three years for Reading  Plus, a literacy program that will be installed on each student’s computer.

“This program will help create literacy experience access for our students,” said Mike Porter, school technology director. “The devices allow each student access to about 3,000 different high-quality children’s publications.”

Porter said the program will extend the availability of technology beyond the walls of the school.

“When school is done for the day, the computers sit there unused until the next school day,” he said. “This way, through the Internet, the student can do research, read and write compositions on the iPad at home. This program has been used in other districts and indicates, on the average, students are on the computer at home about three hours a day doing schoolwork.”

He said the iPads will be distributed to the kindergarten- through eighth-graders when they return to school in September although issuing the iPads to kindergartners will be a little later in the school year. 

Karen Brofft, assistant superintendent, said having access to myOnreader on the iPad will offer students many more reading choices. The program also allows several students to have access to the same book at the same time while the number of copies of a book is limited in a conventional school or public library.

Ewert agreed the program is a plus for the students and the district.

“The software offers books at a student’s reading level and there are prompts and tools to help a student read,” he said. “For example, the student can click on a word he or she doesn’t understand and the system will help them learn the meaning of the work and how to pronounce it.”

The district and the city also cooperated to help students have wireless connection to the Internet.

“The student has wireless connection to the Internet anytime he or she is on school grounds,” Porter said. “The city also has made its wireless system at city facilities like the library and the recreation center available to our students.”

He added that Comcast has a special system providing wireless Internet access to families with children on free or reduced school lunch for $10 a month.

Ewert said the iPads will help students in ways other than just providing Internet and book access.

“The system automatically included a small quiz when a student completes a book that helps measure that individual’s reading comprehension,” he said. “The system also automatically adjusts the material as reading levels improve.”

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