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Editorial: Technology only as good as the people teaching it

Technology moves fast, and education technology is no exception. There is a seemingly neverending stream of new tools meant to improve teachers' ability to get through to students.

Lately, much of the focus has been on iPads. Nearby districts like Farmington and Lakeville have launched plans to bring one of Apple's tablet computers to every student, and they are not alone, either in Minnesota or around the country.

Adoption of the devices is a bit slower in the Rosemount-Apple Valley-Eagan School District, but they are coming. Rosemount Middle School will introduce two portable iPad carts this fall. Far from providing a tablet for every student, neither cart will have enough even for an entire class. It's a start, though, and it could lead to more.

The trick will be introducing the iPads in a way that improves the educational experience. That means making sure teachers are prepared to do more with the iPads than simply substitute them for something they already have.

To their credit, the teachers and RMS technology coordinator Jon Ofstad seem to know this. Ofstad asked teachers to spend time over the summer researching wish lists for the iPads, programs he can work on making available. A group of RMS teachers was scheduled to come in on their own time to work with Ofstad on effective ways to use the device.

Ofstad has said he wants to ensure the iPads are not simply another way for students to access the Internet or work through math problems. That they bring a benefit that would not be possible if students didn't have them in their hands.

Use them correctly, and new technologies can open up new avenues of learning. But use an iPad like a high-tech overhead projector and you might as well be writing on a transparency.