GREENSBURG – Greensburg Community Schools will place tablet computers in the hands of about 200 teachers and students at the end of the month to pilot a program that ultimately will equip all 2,300 students with such devices over the next three years to better prepare children for the high-tech jobs of the future.
Students in four classrooms at the junior high school and two classrooms at the elementary school will get their hands on either Dell Venue 11 Pro Windows 8.1 Pro tablets or Dell Chromebooks at the end of the month, while a first-grade class will try Apple iPad Air tablets. In addition, a second-grade classroom that had been using Windows XP netbooks will test Microsoft Surface RT tablets.
Tammy Williams, the corporation’s director of curriculum, said school officials will gather input from students and teachers before determining which devices work best in which applications.
With the help of the devices, students will better be able to acquire some critical skills , such as critical thinking, multi-tasking and the ability to solve problems, Williams said.
“It’s going to help our students prepare for their future careers,” she said.
So far the devices have cost the schools about $75,000, and Superintendent Tom Hunter said that to reach the goal of having a device in each student’s hands within three years, the corporation likely would incur total costs of about $1.1 million.
Hunter said the exact cost will depend on the device and associated software. The corporation is still determining how exactly to pay for the tablets, he said, though a combination of Capital Projects dollars and book rental fees are probable.
The superintendent said that while some other schools have adopted such devices earlier, Greensburg wanted to make sure it gets the right product for the right uses, and local officials visited several Indiana schools, especially in Madison and Scottsburg, to take a look at implementation, use and potential challenges. Greensburg Community Schools likely will lease the devices for three to five years and then either sell them to the students or return them to the manufacturer. Hunter said it makes little sense for the schools to purchase the tablets for the long term, because they quickly become outdated.
Williams said school officials hope that the devices will result in more engaged learners and puts all students on a level playing field because they all will have the same devices — unlike today, when some students have smartphones with unlimited data plans while other students lack Internet access even at home.
Older students will be allowed to take the devices home, but younger students may have to keep them at school. The school corporation is still working out some of the project’s details, including how to handle situations when the devices break and whether students will be required to use the devices strictly for educational purposes or may be allowed, at home, to play games such as “Angry Birds.” Before the project’s full launch, schools will hold informational sessions with students and parents, Williams said.
Whatever the final rules, Hunter said the computers’ primary purpose will remain preparing students with the right technological skills that will allow them to successfully compete in a global marketplace that is demanding ever greater tech knowledge from employees.
For now, however, Williams said that both teachers and students are looking forward to swiping their fingers across the tablets’ screens.
“They’re pretty pumped,” she said.
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