By Sarah Plummer
For the Daily Telegraph
BECKLEY — Raleigh County School’s announcement that they will be the first county in the state to move all students, second grade and up, to one-to-one computing before Christmas during the 2013-14 school year through a partnership with Apple is a staggering expectation.
But with the announcement comes questions of student responsibility, cyber bullying and Internet safety.
Mary Ann Foster, Raleigh County Schools Technology Coordinator, explained that students in kindergarten and first grade will have one iPad per every two students while second- through 12th-graders will have one iPad for each student. And students third grade and up will be allowed to take their iPads home.
“We believe that if you expect the students to have responsibility, they will be very protective of their technology. Many of these kids have this technology at home,” she said.
“And we are purchasing very protective cases,” she added.
She explained that allowing students to take their iPads home has become a necessity. Each time the school prepares to adopt a new textbook it will be available as an e-book for a fraction of the cost and comes with an array of interactive aspects to boost learning.
Moreover, the West Virginia Department of Education has stated districts will have choices as they adopt new materials and a totally digital curriculum will be one of several state-approved options.
“Students can carry home four or five books or have one iPad,” Foster said.
The district is also hoping that students will take ownership of the integration project by being allowed to personalize their iPad to a certain extent and participating in a district-wide contest to create a name and logo for the initiative.
“Students are going to want to take ownership of it and they are going to be more protective of it. We are not just giving them iPads; we are going to change the way they want to learn and transform the classroom,” she said.
To those who ask about the possibility of parents or students selling the iPad or trading it, Foster replies, “Have you ever seen a kid trying to sell their smartphone? Never. It is a tool they love and they want to use every day,” she said.
In addition, the school district will have a stronghold on the iPad. If the iPad has not been seen in class for a several days, the technology center will be able to lock any user out of it, rendering it useless unless brought back to school.
She said researching other school districts that have leapt into one-to-one computing has shown that having the increase in technology has not led to an increase in cyber bullying.
Students will be required to sign an acceptable use and iPad use policy.
“Student will have accountability. The presence of iPads does not change that. They aren’t going unmonitored or unrestricted,” she explained.
Students who access the Internet on their iPad will have the same Internet filter they do from any school computer, meaning no facebook or other social networking sites.
The school district is not new to putting computers into the hands of students.
In September of 2011, the school piloted one-to-one computing at Trap Hill Middle School with netbooks.
Foster said the experience was a positive one but not one that gives the board a lot of information on which to base this latest venture.
Students were not given the choice to take the computers home and, while it was successful and beneficial to students and teachers, it does not compare to the educational opportunities an iPad offers, she said.
“This is a huge project and when questions get asked it helps us think about solutions. This is our opportunity to transform what learning is about. And our students are ready for it. They are 21st Century Learners. It’s not about the technology, it’s about changing the classroom and the way we teach,” she added.
On Thursday, members of the Raleigh County Technology Department will demonstrate some ways iPad technology will be used in the classroom for seniors at the Raleigh County Commission on Aging.