Oxford High School students to get iPads

Photo by Marcy Peyre-Ferry The Oxford Area School District is purchasing iPad devices for high school staff and students. Looking at the computers from left, are students Tina Rogers, Thomas Sumner, Mary Williams, Chris Chavez, Sierra Wagner and Joy Krawiec.

By MARCELLA PEYRE-FERRY

Journal Register News Service

OXFORD — When high school starts again in September; incoming freshmen at Oxford will be equipped with the latest in technology.

As a new initiative in the district all new ninth graders will be getting an iPad to use in school and at home for their entire four-year high school career.

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This initiative was recommended by the district’s technology committee as a way to get the best possible learning experience for students.

“It will be great for allowing teachers to differentiate instruction so they can have students as at different levels doing different things because they have individualized personal devices,” said teacher and technology committee member Scott Woddell. “I do see them replacing text books to a certain degree, but not just replacing the text book - enhancing the text book with interactive material.”

Computers have been working in the schools for years, and there has been a mobile lab where teachers could bring a set of notepad style computers into the classrooms for specific projects.

During the past school year, the district operated with a “bring your own device” system where students could bring in their computers from home to use in the high school. With that system, however, students did not all have access to the same programs, plus there were many students who did not have computers to bring with them.

Sophomore Thomas Sumner has been using his own iPad at school and has found it to be an important resource. “It’s a great way to learn. I can learn at home and it’s a very dynamic experience,” he said. “It’s a perfect medium for computer classes.”

At this point, the new iPads are intended just for incoming freshmen who will receive them at no charge. Upperclassmen will be able to purchase the same devices at the district’s cost if they wish.

“There’s all kinds of opportunities if you start to think outside the box. There’s nothing in our way. If we have the will to succeed we can do it,” said school board member Joe Scheese said.

Financially, the programs looks like it could be a cost saver to the district in the long run. The iPads will cost about $500 each – a total of $150,000 for the entire freshman class of 330 students. On the savings side, textbooks that may cost over $100 each can be purchased in downloadable form for closer to $15.

“Four years from now, when we’re not buying textbooks or as many text books that’s when our big savings will be,” Scheese said.

Another cost saver the district expects to see is in the reduction of copying pages of handouts and quizzes that now can easily be sent electronically to students, filled in, and returned for grading all without ever using paper.

“We spend a half million dollars a year in photocopying. If we save a third of that, that’s $150,0000, that’s one grade of iPads,” Scheese said.

There is also the chance that by staying on the leading edge in technology, some of the district’s students attending charter schools will decide to come back to Oxford schools.

“We have 450 students in charter schools. If we get 10 percent, just 45 students back in the district, that pays for the entire iPad initiative for the entire high school,” Scheese said.

Delivery of the iPads to students will probably take place in November, but before that, the district will make the students and parents familiar with the rules for using the devicess. While in school, there are controls on Internet service that block inappropriate sites. Parents may have to opportunity to put their own controls on the systems as well to cover home use. “One thing the technology committee is recommending is a computer ethics class for everyone,” Scheese said.

“There are so many incredible aps on here that are interactive that allow students to use technology to improve themselves. Musically there are aps for learning how to play piano, ear training skills to improve their singing, stuff they could never find in a text book,” music teacher Julie Wydrzynski said. “It’s in their hands. They can take it home, they can practice on their own, and it’s innovative and exciting for them.”

The first iPads are going to the district’s teachers who received them on June 9 and will have them to work with all summer so that they can plan ways to incorporate them into their classes.

“The teachers are really, really excited about having something new in their classroom. They’re getting them well ahead of the students,” Woddell said. “I think there’s a role this can play in every department in the building.”