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iPads may be in 196's future

The Rosemount-Apple Valley-Eagan School District is laying the groundwork this summer for a future that could include putting an iPad Mini in the hands of most of its students.

Earlier this spring, the district formed a series of what it’s calling beta teams to explore the implementation of technology in the classroom. If the school board approves, the process could ultimately lead to an iPad for every student in fourth through 12th grades and increased access to technology in other grades.

The district has already worked in recent years to improve wireless Internet networks in its schools and has encouraged students who own iPads or other devices to bring them to school. But a task force started working in the spring of 2013 to figure out what technology use should look like in the district.

The result is a plan that combines training for teachers, increased access for students and efforts to find ways to make technology as much a part of the learning experience as it is part of most students’ daily lives.

In addition to iPads for students, the district’s plan includes iPads and laptop computers for teachers and increased supplies of Chromebook laptops in schools for student use.

To help prepare for all of that, the district has its beta teams, groups of early adopters that will help figure out how iPads and other technology can best be used in the classroom.

One beta team of 46 teachers will receive iPads for themselves and one class of their students in the fall. Another group of 48 teachers will work on ways to better implement existing technology into the classroom, and a third team of 44 teachers will look at how to implement technology into their roles as teachers. There is also a team of 32 administrators that will look at how to foster what curriculum and instruction director Steve Troen calls an “innovative and technology-rich environment” in district schools.

That kind of preparation is important, Troen said.

“If you have an increase in mobile devices for students but you don’t have professional development, they’re just going to sit there,” he said.

If everything works out well, and if school board members approve, the district has a three-year plan to roll out the iPads. In the first year students in eighth through 10th grades would get the devices. In the second year the program would expand down to sixth grade and up to 11th. The third year would include the full 4-12 rollout.

The school board will talk more in July about how it might pay for the iPads.

The tablet computers are becoming increasingly popular in schools. The Farmington School District recently completed the second year of a program that gave an iPad to every student, and it has discussed allowing students to keep the devices over the summer so they can keep learning.

Troen said the iPads are important as teachers try new approaches like flipped classrooms, in which teachers ask students to watch a recorded lecture as their homework, then work on exercises in class, where the teacher is available to answer questions.

The idea is not to simply replace a printed textbook with an electronic version, Troen said, but to make technology a seamless part of everyday life in the classroom.

“It’s moving away from the old model of technology being an event,” Troen said. “The idea ultimately is that technology is almost invisible. It’s so interwoven into the classroom experience it’s like it isn’t there.”

Nathan Hansen

Nathan Hansen has been a reporter and editor with the Farmington Independent and the Rosemount Town Pages since 1997. He is very tall.

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