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iPads For All EGHS Students Would Cost $550,000

Advantages include ability to better gear course material to each individual student as well as up-to-date material; outcome data scarce.


Teachers and administrators from East Greenwich High School gave a lengthy presentation to the School Committee Tuesday night about the benefits of providing every student at the school with their own iPad. 

The only catch? It won't come cheap. According to Supt. Victor Mercurio, the total cost of the one-time purchase of iPads for the entire school would be $550,750 – including the iPads themselves, protective casing, and professional development for teachers. 

In addition, Mercurio said, the district would want to add one full-time and one half-time staff member to support the endeavor, at a total cost of about $100,000. That may or may not be temporary, he said.

Each student would "own" their iPad, so new purchases for incoming freshman would be required. 

The benefits, according to Principal Michael Podraza and his team of presenters (including Asst. Principal Tim Chace, Science Dept. Chair Nicholas Rath, Spanish teacher Kristin Pontarelli and Latin teacher Ben Revkin), include the ability to gear learning to each individual student, to present the most up-to-date material, and to let students guide their own learning.

When asked, however, the team struggled to provide hard data that 1:1 iPads or computers improved student learning.

School Committee Vice Chair Deidre Gifford brought up another point. "I’m a little confused about where we are in the context of this initiative," she said.

In particular, she wanted to know why it appeared as if the district was moving forward on this particular initiative when other professed district priorities – such as full-day kindergarten and expanded foreign language offerings – were not even part of the discussion.

"We never really knew what [a 1:1 iPad program would] cost," said Chairman David Green in response. "Now we have at least the first look at the cost and now we have to look at it in terms of the budget."

"The train has not left the station," said Committeeman Jack Sommer in agreement.

Budget hearings begin next Tuesday, Jan. 29. The schedule is below:

  • Tuesday, Jan. 29, at 6:30 p.m. – Elementary and Secondary budgets
  • Thursday, Jan. 31, at 6:30 p.m. – Special Ed and Facilities budgets
  • Tuesday, Feb. 5, at 7 p.m. – Regular SC meeting, including Administration budget discussion.
  • Thursday, Feb. 7, at 6:30 p.m. – Athletics and Technology budgets
  • Tuesday, Feb. 26, at 7 p.m. – Regular SC meeting, including Public Budget Hearing

 All meetings take place in the library at Cole Middle School.

 

@Home_in_EG January 23, 2013 at 02:52 PM
I just read this last week on Rocky Hill's website and was excited about the idea of an Ipad program, but the question will be whether EGHS could pull something like this off on such a big scale. A lot easier to do when you have just 20 students.... But the idea that every text book would be on the ipad, reducing 50 lbs out of the kids backpacks, the ability to highlight areas of interest to create study guides, put homework & syllabus online, etc is a pretty neat idea. Rocky Hill is doing this NOW with their middle schoolers. We should pick their brains. I do have to agree with one person's suggestion of expanded language programs though. I would love to see Russian and Mandarin (chinese) offered, and perhaps some others. I just heard there is a fantastic program at URI for International Business in Mandarin. We should look at offering languages that will complement these new emerging markets...
@Home_in_EG January 23, 2013 at 02:59 PM
Ipad is not really a computer and certainly not a calculator. Everything is "App" based, so a kid that needs help in Math or Spanish can use these apps to help them get better. Kids relate to technology and it makes learning fun. Sounds cliche' but having used Ipad apps to help kids overcome issues with Math facts and study for language tests, I can definitely say its more fun to study with the Ipad than with grumpy mom, lol.... And just the savings alone in textbook purchases over the long run might make this a wise choice... Textbooks dont get written in, ripped up, etc when they are in an e-reader.
Timothy S. Chace, Assistant Principal, EGHS January 23, 2013 at 03:50 PM
I wanted to address the comment above that "When asked, however, the team struggled to provide hard data that 1:1 iPads or computers improved student learning." The presentation was intended to be brief and was designed to inform the community about the uses of these devices in a classroom setting and how they can support teaching and learning. The reality is that we could fill the library with research that demonstrates that engaged students are more successful students. Students, like all people, are engaged by their own curiosity, opportunities for originality and creativity, personalization, and by developing relationships. The use of 1:1 devices to support individual student investigation, creation, personalized learning, sharing and communication was the focus of the presentation. Those are foundational building blocks to consistently engage and motivate students to do their best work. Does "hard data" need to be produced to support the idea that motivated, engaged students will be more successful than those who are not?
EG Lurker January 23, 2013 at 04:03 PM
Computers only do part of our thinking for us. They might perform quantitative calculations or research queries, but synthesizing the numbers or research - applying critical and analytical thinking - is something we still rely (mostly) on people for. These are the skills we need to be teaching. By allowing technology to perform the gruntwork, it enables us to spend more time to innovate, evaluate, & debate on the way to better and more informed solutions & answers. The move to iPads in the classroom in EG's case - as is the case of most districts - is most likely focused around text books and relevant information. The cost of keeping curriculum current and updated involves a replacement of expensive textbooks, something that most districts cannot absorb with any sort of frequency - digital texts can be as current as the publisher provides, with an assumed cost benefit. Paul - do you still do division the long way, or have you created your own mental shortcuts? We all only have so much brainpower, and I'd prefer to use mine in less mundane, and more explorative, ways.
NATIVE 1950 January 23, 2013 at 05:12 PM
I'm raising the flag for Mr. Hoffman. The more electronic STUFF we buy these children the less they have to use the thing that's on top of their shoulders. Then what happens when these devices are taken home from school? Are the parents going to be responsible for what this device is being used for? And from what I see now a days, most of these children have their own I pads, I phones, I whatevers. More tax money needlessly spent.
EG Lurker January 23, 2013 at 07:08 PM
iPads are being used in by businesses and in education all over the globe, and there are many methods to safeguard their use when necessary - users can be prevented from downloading applications and accessing certain web content, just as is done today on work & school laptops. To call spending on technology "needless" is one reason our education numbers (especially those in math & science) are slipping against the rest of the world. But the world can always use more ditch diggers and people who only know history and science only as current as 2000.
EG Lurker January 23, 2013 at 10:31 PM
I don't think we disagree on the learning aspect, particularly around critical thinking, but I'd much rather refocus which skills are important to utilize and develop. How did we get from EGSD putting iPads into students' hands to online learning and an over-reliance on digital platforms? The face to face interaction between teachers/students & students/students is massively important, but the four professions you mention can all benefit greatly from a technology assist - computer algorithms running across a database might help a doctor identify a condition that otherwise might prove difficult (and time is often of the essence); therapists can use technology to check in on patients who provide digital feedback and updates (frequent visits prove tough with today's healthcare costs); and teachers and lawyers (and doctors) can use technology to collaborate with distant resources, widening their network in a search for information. Too often we fail to see to real benefit technology can bring to all walks of life - yes, even farmers in Kansas are using smartphones to analyze crop disease and weather patterns. Finding the right balance between human and digital interaction is the key to our future/immediate success as a society.
Jennifer Condon January 24, 2013 at 11:53 AM
Could the same 1:1 initiative be met with android tablets or net books? The tablets are much cheaper than IPads and it should be researched if they have access to the text books (as they do have access to Internet, word processing, applications...) and net books are even cheaper and more durable and have Internet access as well.
Cecil B DeMille January 24, 2013 at 04:29 PM
Whether it is through an ipad or an android, over the long run this makes a lot of sense and will make our students better prepared and more competitive. (BTW I believe there is greater educational content available for the ipads as opposed to androids at this point) It is important to note that the $550,000 would not be an annual expense because in subsequent years only one class of ipads would be needed and the professional development aspect would be reduced. In addition, that cost does not include the possibility of obtaining grant money to help defray the start up cost, which would reduce the out of pocket expense to the district. It also does not include the savings that would be attained from not having to buy text books and consumables. Finally, it would reduce the weight of the average backpack from 40 lbs to 10 lbs.
Elizabeth McNamara (Editor) January 24, 2013 at 04:36 PM
There is another cost I mention in the story but did not add to the $550,000 – Supt. Mercurio is recommending hiring two people, one full time and one part time, to provide technical support, at an annual cost of $100,000.
EG826 January 24, 2013 at 09:17 PM
Yes, iPads are cool and I’m sure there are SOME learning advantages to having them, but I certainly do not think they are essential to learning and, frankly, I think kids (and maybe teachers, too) are becoming much too dependent on electronics and need to still be encouraged to learn/teach in traditional ways. I’m not saying that we should avoid embracing new technologies and opportunities, but the amount that they’re asking for seems extremely excessive (especially considering what a mess RI’s economy is and how many educational, social services, and health/special needs programs are being cut statewide) and to keep this program going long-term will be a permanent investment. This money would likely have to come from EG tax increases or cutting even more programs elsewhere in the budget, which just doesn’t seem fair. It would be a waste if they start with this and five years down the road abandon it after hundreds of thousands of taxpayer money has gone in to it because they realize it’s too expensive to keep up with buying for incoming classes, making repairs, ensuring students are putting their ipads to appropriate use, etc. (I see a lot of potential for iPads to be just another distraction for students in an already tech-happy world).
EG826 January 24, 2013 at 09:17 PM
My suggestion (although I think iPads in the a public school are generally frivolous): have a few (non-mandatory) classes available in the school where iPads are incorporated in the learning process and either lend iPads to the twenty or so students only for the semester they’re taking the class or allow students to use their own iPads that they purchase independently (not saying parent’s should have to buy them, but many do anyway… or if kids really want them they can save up money from part time jobs or allowances rather than be “gifted” with an iPad from the taxpayer). They can also consider allotting a small part of the budget (i.e. a couple thousand $) to a “scholarship program” to award high achieving, low income students nominated by teachers with an iPad to participate in the program and for permanent use if they feel inclined. Just my thoughts :)
La Dolce Vita January 25, 2013 at 12:12 AM
Technology is terrific for learning, but no one seems to see the danger in its increasing use in our society. Youngsters interact with a screen more often now than with a human face or human touch, both at home and in school. So there has to be a special intiative to 'teach' children and adults how to interact with one another, PBIS. And it's only to improve behavior so as to raise test scores. How are these younster going to learn to take care of each other?
@Home_in_EG January 25, 2013 at 03:56 AM
Read this to understand more fully how IPad programs have been successfully implemented elsewhere (and closeby!) http://www.rockyhill.org/RelId/637808/ISvars/default/One_to_One_MS_iPad_Program.htm
I_Like_EG January 25, 2013 at 06:51 AM
maybe a cheaper alternative would be to start them in the jr. high and leave them there for several years instead of buying new ones each year. as mentioned above, the "building blocks" start before high school! how about all day kindergarten where kids can be that much more prepared and parents can be more productive in society. as for expanded foreign language arts, include major languages starting in elementary school and making it mandatory to choose a language and by high school graduation become fluent. lets not be ignorant spanish is the #2 language in the U.S. and from a global view spanish and chinese are very important. i have had many job application that asked if the applicant is fluent in another language. i am tired of kids not knowing how to pick up a phone or send a card to say happy birthday, instead they text it, email it, tweet it, face book it, whatever. we are losing critical social interaction skills and if you look around at the mall all these kids are walking around like robots typing away on phones and ipads. so lets be careful at how over a half million dollars is allocated.
I_Like_EG January 25, 2013 at 06:53 AM
i take back the jr high comment i later read that they are implementing it, i missed that part, i apologize. so lets see the results of rocky hill i guess :)
Raul Jamieson Miguel January 25, 2013 at 02:12 PM
Some thoughts: 1 - What happens when a kid breaks/loses their iPAD? Are the parents on the hook for $300? What if an iPAD is stolen? Who pays then? Over three or four years, a few unfortuante incidents could lead to a huge expense on families .. Cheaper text books are hard to break and have not much value in stolen market. 2 - iPAD's become obselete basically every three years -- so does that mean that every three years, the school is going to have to invest $500,000+ into a new batch of iPAD's? 3 - iPAD's may have a good technological use, but too much of anything is no good -- asking some kids to do simple long division/multiplication have become a terribly challeging task. the art of interaction is gone --- people would rather text than call. Too much technology favors the lazy.
Random follower January 26, 2013 at 12:18 PM
I chuckle as I read some of these responses. Does anyone realize that we are in the second decade of the 21st century. Our current school system was built on the agrarian calendar to ensure students were available during harvest time. Next we moved to cells and bells to accommodate the need for factory workers during the Industrial Age. Look at it this way, the current kidergartners will retire around 2065. Think of how much the world has changed in the last 13 years; imagine the next 52. We have to start educating our children for their future not our past. The IPad is not going to replace the teacher but enhance the educational value the students and community will receive from there school system. We must focus on 21st century skills for the sake of our children's future. These skills can be found in the 4 C's: Collaboration, Communication, Creative Thinking, Critical Thinking. Yes $550,000 is a lot of money but the cost of a quality education is priceless. It seems to me that many of the people responding are non- educators but believe they know what education is because they went to school. This kind of attitude will cause our educational to continue to lag behind other sectors by 10-15 years. Instead of asking what if...; ask what are the possibilities. Yes foreign language and all day kindergarten is important, but the IPad,used correctly, could enhance those programs beyond belief. Just my thoughts....
Leo January 26, 2013 at 01:15 PM
Most of these EG students already have ipads at home and probably several per household. Let them bring them to school and have loaners available for the others. 1/2 million dollars going into this program along with hiring new staff is completely unreasonable!
Raul Jamieson Miguel January 26, 2013 at 01:49 PM
But your assumption makes it seem like $550,000 is only a one-time cost. What happens when that generation of iPad's go obselete? Did you have an iPhone 1? How many have you had since then? I know I did, and am currently on my 4th iPhone, just through the process of the necessity to upgrade. Those things wear down over time like everything else. Maybe on the iPad you get three or four good years before it goes downhill. When the iPad 2 came out with new software, that software made the iPad 1 almost impossible to use. So at this point, is $550,000 every four years with $100,000 annually really feasible monetarily? I agree that the iPad could enhance education, but there are also a lot of what-ifs, most of them revolving around extrodinary $$.
Raul Jamieson Miguel January 26, 2013 at 02:00 PM
And what stops theft? What stops kids from stealing these iPads of value? What stops kids from being kids and trying to sell these for $$? Relying on "Find my iPAD" apps? And what happens when kids just "deactivate" the program through the iPAD? What stops a kid from just accidentally knocking their iPad off their desk and having it smash into a million pieces? Unless you put it in an iron box, no normal case can 100%, or even 75% protect these. Accidents happen all the time, and who has to pay the price? Parents? The School? More $$... This isn't as simple as a one-time cost with annual employment help ...
minivanhell January 26, 2013 at 03:20 PM
Really? What are you basing your comment on? We have school aged kids and not an Ipad in sight. What did you type this on - an Ipad?
Random follower January 27, 2013 at 12:41 AM
Again continue to look at he initial cost not the eucational value. 1) insurance is available for the device for less than $100.00 per year. 2) the district could initiate BYOD 3) the district could look at a lease to own. The student has four years to pay for device then it's there's when they graduate. 4) the district will save money in buying costly textbook every five years.(that's the normal cycle for textbooks) I'm not sure how big your district is but a K-4 reading series for 900 students will cost over $100,000. Remember that's only for K-4.
La Dolce Vita January 27, 2013 at 02:55 AM
Electronic volumes are not free, perhaps less, but not free. The cost for textbooks, and keeping them current, will not evaporate.
Random follower January 27, 2013 at 03:23 AM
True, but why do you need textbooks? Textbooks are a resource and should not drive instruction. The common core determines what should be taught. So technically you don't need textbooks. Teachers could design units and put them iTunesU.
@Home_in_EG January 29, 2013 at 05:31 AM
I think this is a great idea
@Home_in_EG January 29, 2013 at 05:40 AM
Every book available through the library in RI can be downloaded for free. How about a huge boost to reading? Just the savings parents would have on buying books for their kids is worth considering.... But I agree, you could have the parents pay $75 a year and when they graduate, they own it. There is no doubt to anyone who has ever owned an apple product, to think that it would go obsolete in the 4 years of High school is not likely. An Apple product is not the same as a windows product. You have to have owed one to understand that. You may have upgraded your phone at every chance the carrier gave you, but really other than Siri, is there that much more your Iphone 4 does than the original? Remember the original Iphone was released 2007. That's 6 years ago and there are still quite a few in use. I know, I just upgraded mine :)
Bob Plain January 29, 2013 at 10:38 AM
Within just a few miles of here there are public schools that can't afford to give each student their own text book and we are considering giving every student an iPad. What do people in East Greenwich think about this juxtaposition?
Eric Carpenter January 29, 2013 at 11:24 AM
Why do the tablets have to be iPads? Were Android-based tablets considered? They're way cheaper than an iPad, with basically the same functionality. Seems like many classes at the HS level are already transitioning over to using Google Drive, Gmail, etc., which seems like a natural fit for Google Android devices. I sure hope all options are being considered by the school district administration, because this isn't chump change, and I assume there are costs to set up and maintain IT infrastructure to support the tablets. I also assume textbook providers aren't giving content away electronically, and I'll bet that in some cases, enhanced content may be even more costly than textbooks. Personally, I think tablets are a great idea, but there should be some serious due diligence on this one, that includes input from the district IT people.
Renu Englehart January 29, 2013 at 01:33 PM
We are big fans in this house of the Google Nexus tablet, brand new half the cost of the Ipad. Further I'd like to see some consideration for open source software. I would think one of the biggest things is licensing software for so many tablets, I use Open Office and LibreOffice with rarely a problem. To piggyback on Eric's comment, Google Drive at least lets kids keep their work on the cloud as opposed to the individual tablet - which when lost means the work is lost as well.

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