One Wyoming school district says, "One iPad per child."

One Wyoming school district says, "One iPad per child."

Summary: Meet a school district and its pioneers who break with the widely held public school tradition of selling students short on education and technology.

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TOPICS: iPad, Mobility
33

Converse County, Wyoming School District #1

Converse County, Wyoming School District #1

At a time when public school quality criticism is at an all-time high, one school district in Wyoming says, "One iPad per child and staff member." Converse County's School District #1 rural schools have taken a major technology step by issuing iPads to every student and staff member. Though Apple products are no strangers to schools, the decision to distribute iPads is a significant move forward in public education. It places equal technology in each student's hands regardless of socio-economic background or ability to pay. Having been both a student and a teacher myself, I commend the school district's wisdom in its decision to move ahead of the standard public school fare.

It's refreshing to know that there are school administrators who genuinely care about their student's educations. Don't get me wrong, I'm not implying that handing out iPads is the important gesture here. It's the fact that the faculty and School Board went forward with a decision that benefits the students, the parents and the staff. A rare act, indeed.

When I overheard the statement that, "All of our students have iPads," I interrupted myself and the overheard conversation. To my surprise, I had interrupted Lisa Weigel, Rural School Principal and District Special Education Director of the schools that implemented this incredible plan.

Ms. Weigel agreed to an interview about the program and how it's going for her school and students. Here is the body of that interview:

KH: What about costs? Apple products are very expensive, especially iPads, to provide one to each student.

LW: Cost was not really an issue as the cost to provide personal laptops for students was much more expensive than moving to individual iPads for student use.

KH: Were there any downsides to providing iPads to students and staff?

LW: One downside at least initially, was ensuring we had the infrastructure and support to manage our changes.  We also had to develop a process including procedures for requesting and purchasing apps as well as providing technical training and support to all staff with regard to the iPad features and apps.  We hired an Instructional Facilitator that is responsible for training, support, modeling/coaching staff with iPad uses.

Our District/School Board has really targeted instructional technology as a goal area for our entire district. Our rural school students recently provided a presentation during a Board Meeting regarding the use of their iPads within their classrooms.  Many of our Professional Development Days and Fiscal Resources are allocated to support our efforts in technology.  We really emphasize 21st Century Skills within each of our rural classrooms.  Due to our rural schools being somewhat isolated, using FaceTime to connect with other schools has been another great learning tool.  As the principal, I also use it to communicate with staff and students.  Just today, one of the schools presented a literacy project they completed with me using FaceTime.

Douglas, Wyoming Rural Schools student, Daycia, works with her iPad.

Douglas, Wyoming Rural Schools student, Daycia, works with her iPad.

KH: How extensive is your use of iPads and what Apps do the students use?

LW: We currently use iPads for grades K-8 within our rural schools, which includes about 60 students and 20 staff members.  We use a variety of Apps, some of our student/staff favorites are:  Garage Band (our Music teacher uses this consistently with rural students within her music program) students have actually recorded their own songs, Math Ninja, Rocket Math (both reinforce math computation fluency), Sentence Builder (writing), Stack the State (Social Studies), State and Capital Changes, Super Why by PBS and First Word Spanish (reinforces Spanish Language).

For a full list of Apps used by Douglas' CCSD#1, visit the Rural School iPad Apps page.

KH: Do your schools use any other Cloud technologies other than Apple's iCloud?

LW: We use some Cloud based systems/technology for our district curriculum and our district IEP software system.

KH: Do you have any advice or warnings for schools that might want to do this?

LW: Professional Development Training is essential to ensure staff and students are equipped to implement such innovative technology!

Douglas, Wyoming, population ~6,000, isn't the first place that you'd think of for its forward-thinking attitude toward technology or for its ability to make a leading-edge decision. This small, often wind-swept town in view of the Rocky Mountains and located on the banks of the North Platte River is quiet, conservative but technologically advanced.

About Douglas, Wyoming: Douglas - one of the best 100 Small Towns in America. In addition to being the Official Home of the Jackalope and a Tree City USA, Douglas is also proud to be the home of the Wyoming State Fairgrounds and Pioneer Museum, Wyoming Law Enforcement Academy, Douglas Railroad Interpretive Center, Douglas Community Golf Course, Douglas Motorsports Park, the final resting place of Sir Barton, the first thoroughbred colt to win the American Triple Crown.

Douglas is located on I-25 about 3.5 hours from Denver, Colorado; 3.5 hours from Mt. Rushmore, South Dakota; 3.5 hours from Devil's Tower and 3.5 hours from Thermopolis, Wyoming. There's a private joke that Douglas is 3.5 hours from everything but only about 35 minutes from Casper.

Douglas is a nice little town. Peaceful, but not immune to winter's chill or mountain pass-accelerated winds, it looks like a place right out of the Old West but with wide, paved streets. It's well worth a visit but be warned, the beautiful views of Laramie Peak and the North Platte River will make you want to stay forever. Life is good on the Oregon Trail.

Topics: iPad, Mobility

About

Kenneth 'Ken' Hess is a full-time Windows and Linux system administrator with 20 years of experience with Mac, Linux, UNIX, and Windows systems in large multi-data center environments.

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33 comments
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  • RE: One Wyoming school district says,

    This will end badly as all school district attempts to "integrate technology" end badly. Unless the essential character of how school operates changes, technology is doomed to be an add-on to an antiquated system that continues to think students are living in the world of 1957. iPads and a few faddish apps do not constitute real change, only poorly-spent taxpayers dollars.
    dw2hite
    • RE: One Wyoming school district says,

      @dw2hite

      I'm betting that you're wrong.
      khess
      • Technically speaking...

        @khess The state of Wyoming is betting he's wrong - and they're ponying up taxpayer's money for the stake.

        [Edit, there's a statement to the effect that this isn't costing the taxpayer's anything - so, either this is funded through one hell of a bake sale - or corporate sponsorship (obviously not Apple or its competitors), or it's still coming from the taxpayers - just not in the form of a specific tax (read: levy), which is really a semantic argument.]
        TheWerewolf
    • RE: One Wyoming school district says,

      @dw2hite Clearly for education to improve curriculum needs to speak the language of our children. They were born in technological world. Why should they be denied it in school?
      CowLauncher
  • Is there a REAL deep education discount with Apple iPads?

    I don't see them listed on Apple's edu site.
    If not, there are a large number of quality laptops for well under the price of an iPad. Maybe they were comparing the cost of Apple laptops? ...

    At any rate, while I am happy to see them embrace leveling the playing field for the less advantaged, as a taxpayer, I'd wish the dollars spent on something more main stream.
    whatagenda
    • RE: One Wyoming school district says,

      @whatagenda Agreed!
      statuskwo5
    • RE: One Wyoming school district says,

      @whatagenda

      You might want to check out Wyoming's tax situation. You wouldn't complain. The money doesn't come from taxes.
      khess
      • Where does it come from?

        @khess: The money tree out back?
        ye
      • RE: One Wyoming school district says,

        Federal funds from Title I and Title VI B, Grant from the Wyoming Department of Education.
        daikon
      • All public funds come from taxes, personal or corporate

        @khess

        As daikon points out:
        [quote]Federal funds from Title I and Title VI B, Grant from the Wyoming Department of Education. [/quote]

        If this is Federal money (Still the Public's purse) then shouldn't ALL of USA be provided iPads in each Department of Education?

        Just wondering? You know this thing called fairness?

        [i]~~~~~~~~~~
        All animals are equal but some animals are more equal than others.
        ~ George Orwell[/i]
        WinTard
      • How is this not tax money?

        @daikon: <i>Federal funds from Title I and Title VI B, Grant from the Wyoming Department of Education.</i>
        ye
  • When schools are cutting teachers and salaries they go out and buy iPads?

    Not only that they're going to take on technical support for the students and their parents? Amazing!
    ye
  • Uhhh, what was that?

    "LW: Cost was not really an issue as it the cost to provide personal laptops for students was much more expensive than moving to individual iPads for student use.

    KH: Were there any downsides to providing iPads to students and staff?

    LW: One downside at least initially, was ensuring we had the infrastructure and support to manage our changes. We also had to develop a process including procedures for requesting and purchasing apps as well as providing technical training and support to all staff with regard to the iPad features and apps. We hired an Instructional Facilitator that is responsible for training, support, modeling/coaching staff with iPad uses"

    - First, there is no explanation how laptops were more expensive, so I'm calling this as BS from an Apple fanboy
    - Second, if they went with an industry standard in business and education like Windows, would they have had to build the same infrastructure and hire this "Instructional Facilitator"

    The rest of it is just nonsense. "We used Facetime to communicate", Wow, that is amazing and thankfull Apple invented video communication!!!

    My guess is that the district has Windows machines anyway, and infrastructure to secure and manage them, so purchasing laptops (where students can actually type on them without getting Carpal Tunnel), where the hardware is cheaper and they had the mangement infrastructure would have probably been MUCH less expensive.

    This reminds me of Christopher Dawson and his "Google only" policies he has which are nothing more than a bias towards one multi-billion dollar company over another.

    Nothing to see here folks, facts and logic seem to dispel everything that was said here...
    omdguy
    • RE: One Wyoming school district says,

      @omdguy

      "My guess is that the district has Windows machines anyway, ..."

      Well, Ken didn't report on guesses. He reported on facts and, this is just my own opinion on the subject mind you, if a school district manager makes a statement about costs, I'd be inclined to believe her since I'm sure she and her staff and fellow school district managers looked into this issue before going ahead with this iPad policy and that the iPad cost comparison in relationship to traditional school based computer systems was fully explored and vetted. Granted that last part was an admitted "guess" on my part but I'll still go with it.
      kenosha77a
    • RE: One Wyoming school district says,

      @omdguy

      What exactly is your point?
      khess
  • RE: One Wyoming school district says,

    There has been more than a few regular ZDNet Talkback posters (and one in particular) who have consistently advocated against adoption of a school policy represented by this type of innovative and (I'm betting) potentially successful public school program. A program centered around an iPad assisted teaching curriculum. I'm glad Lisa Weigel overcame this type of hinderance and short sightedness in making her decision to support her program.

    However, the one "fly in the ointment" that has been previously voiced concerns the replacement costs for damaged school issued iPads. Has Lisa instituted a replacement policy for her school children regarding lost or damaged iPad units? Have the iPads issued been "hardened" for daily educational use by third party protective cases?

    It's been two plus years (even before the iPad was officially introduced) since ZDNet Articles and TalkBack comments have been speculating about the iPad's potential impact on the educational ecosystem. Since the beginning, I have been advocating the type of widespread future adoption of the iPad tablet in this type of environment. (At least the adoption of a "tablet" in the form popularized by the iPad.) in fact, Jason Perlow and Zack Whittaker have authored many a blog article which have generated interesting debates over this issue. I must admit I always took some delight in questioning and debating Zack's anti-iPad or anti-tablet educational opinions over the years.
    kenosha77a
  • RE: One Wyoming school district says,

    LOL. What a waste. The school district I work as a tech for gave iPads to 30 principles to see if they would be interested in a pilot program using them in their school. I went around and collected all 30 with the same message from all of the principles. "It doesn't do what we were told it could and would only serve as a distraction in the classroom." is a direct quote. Want to improve education through technology? Donate some cash to kahnacademy.org and help it become more accessible.
    blarelli
    • RE: One Wyoming school district says,

      @blarelli
      That's a bummer. What did you do with the iPads? Also, a little training and guided approach can help. You can't just toss new technology at people and expect adoption. Takes a little more work than that. Projects like this fail because the people behind them fail--not the technology. What were they told it could do that it can't do? And, kahnacademy.org looks like a parked site and not something real.
      khess
  • RE: One Wyoming school district says,

    Those who don't learn from history... <br><br>As a teacher, I remembe the Apple IIs coming in to the class room and they ended up gathering dust or being used for games at recess. But at least they were computers, with a keyboard. And no I didn't reject computers - just the useless ones.<br><br>The iPad is a consumer media device - it may be used for reading, if you don't mind the poor posture, no tactile feedback and god forbid you use it outdoors. As a development device it's useless, unless you spend enough money to bring it up to the capabilities of a netbook and in any case, you still don't have a real OS or applications.<br><br>It won't run full HTML 5 or Flash. The only way to remove Apple's restrictions on audio and video use in HTML 5 is to wrap it and package it as an iOS app and that can only be purchased from the iTunes store. How do I know? I publish HTML 5 eLearning with synchronised voice and embedded video.<br><br>Worse still, a netbook running Windows is cheaper, has higher resolution, a real keyboard and a real OS used by over 90% of the planet and closer to 99% in commerce. So instead of acquiring real skills, we give the students fingerpainting on a consumer media device.<br><br>Perhaps the story of the Emperor's new clothes should be required reading for teachers and administrators.
    tonymcs@...
    • RE: One Wyoming school district says,

      @tonymcs@...

      How does the typical student read a conventional textbook, Tony? Has reading a text book changed since you or I were students in primary school? As for myself, I would lay the text book horizontally on the desk surface and read it that way.

      Did you notice the included photo in Ken's article showing a student reading or using her iPad (propped up with by it's Smart Cover)? IMO, that is a far better ergonomic position for a student than forcing a student to view a traditional textbook horizontally on a desk or supported at an angle by one or both of the students hands.

      With that in mind, how do you justify your old opinion about poor posture required to use an iPad?

      BTW, your right about the iPad's poor outdoor viewing capability. But I'm curious. As a teacher, how many times out of the school year did you conduct classes outdoors where your students needed their textbooks?
      kenosha77a