By the middle of November, the Rockville Centre School District will have iPads in the hands of all of its middle school students.
The district has purchased enough of the mobile devices to give them to all of its sixth- and seventh-graders. The students will use them at school during the day, and take them home at night.
There are already more than 1,000 iPads in use in the district, mainly in libraries and in some classrooms. All fifth-graders have iPads that they use and keep in their classrooms. But the program’s expansion will mark the first time that students have the devices with them at all times, and take them home.
“I really want them to get used to using the tools that are going to be there for them,” said Christopher Pellettieri, the assistant superintendent for curriculum. “It might be a smaller iPad or faster iPad or something as they grow older, but it’s a useful tool that will help prepare them for college and careers, and we want to get it into their hands as soon as possible.”
The students will use the tablets in the classroom with a variety of district-approved applications. Some of the apps will take the place of textbooks, while others will be more interactive, and change the way students work in the classroom.
“A teacher can, for example, instead of handing out paper, email the kids,” Pellettieri explained. “So I can email work to the students. Students can work on it right there in class either collaboratively or independently … They then can email back to me.”
Students will be allowed to customize the iPads — to a degree. Pellettieiri said they will be allowed to upload their own music and pictures, and may even purchase and download some of their own apps. But the iPads will be collected from time to time so the district can update them, and that process could erase any apps students have downloaded.
“We want them to have music,” said Pellettieri. “We want them to have things they’re going to enjoy using because we want them to take the device with them when they go places, and be able to work on them so it does truly extend the school day.”
Students and parents will sign user agreements for the tablets, which the district is still finalizing. (The final version will be available on the district’s website for parents to view before they sign.)
One of the stipulations will be that if the device is lost or damaged beyond what is covered by warranty, parents will be responsible. To help cover that potential cost, the district will offer iPad insurance, which parents can purchase for about $61 for the school year. The insurance covers any type of damage, as well as the cost of a new iPad if it is stolen.
“Just like a textbook or calculator that’s lost, yes, it would be incumbent on the family for the full cost of replacement,” Pellettieri said. “[Students] are pretty good with their iPhones and the iPads they have at home, so we’re pretty sure they’re going to do the same here.”
If parents opt not to sign the user agreement, their children will take iPads at the start of the day from a cart near the entrance of the building, and put them back at the end of the day. This way, they will still be able to participate in iPad lessons in the classroom.
“There is technology in almost everything we do these days,” Pellettieri said. “In my mind, we’ve got to be past this. These are 21st century kids we’re churning out. These kids have [technology] everywhere, except school. We can’t continue that way.”