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Dan Hnatyk, a computer specialist for District 833, helps Jessica Koosmann and her son, Logan, both of Cottage Grove, during an iPad distribution session at Oltman Middle School. Logan, 11, will enter the sixth grade at Oltman, one of five schools in the district’s iPad pilot program. (Bulletin photo by William Loeffler)

District 833 iPad program begins second year

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news Cottage Grove, 55016
Cottage Grove Minnesota 7584 80th Street South 55016

As they begin their second year with iPads in their classrooms, administrators at several District 833 schools said they hope to focus less on logistics and more on learning.

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Last August, District 833 distributed nearly 5,000 iPads to students at Crestview, Newport and Pullman elementary schools, Oltman Middle School and Park High School. The rollout was part of a broader district-wide initiative called Transforming Thinking Through Technology, or T3.

District administrators are gathering data to determine if the mobile devices will result in greater student engagement and higher test scores. They are expected to release a final evaluation report on the 2013-14 school year Nov. 1.

“We’re still crunching the numbers” said Tom LaBounty, director of research, evaluation, and assessment for South Washington County Schools. “Just the introduction to technology itself is not necessarily going to have a positive impact in student learning. It’s just a tool.”

District 833 has no immediate plans to expand the iPad program to other schools, Superintendent Keith Jacobus said.

“At the present time, we know that we will always work to expand technology for instruction,” he said in a statement. “Whether it will be a one-to-one iPad initiative is yet to be determined. We will work to get a second year of data from the pilot schools to understand the measurable impact of the iPad on student learning and achievement.”

Introducing that technology in the five pilot schools was a learning process for educators, students and their parents. Much of last year was devoted to getting everyone on the same page — or screen — said Rich Romano, principal at Newport Elementary School.

“Your first year, you’re kind of working with the mechanics of it,” Romano said. “You’re learning how to store the machine, you’re learning how to charge them and what apps work. Now we have to get a little deeper into our teacher’s knowledge of how to use them academically and get our kids to represent their intellect in a creative way.”

Last year, teachers at the five T3 schools received training on how to use iBooks Author, an e-book app, and Reflector, an app that  lets the user simulcast content from their iPad onto laptops, LCD projectors or whiteboards. District 833 conducted additional technology classes for teachers this summer.

Romano said he expects a greater synergy this year, since teachers and most of the student body are now more comfortable using the iPads.

“We’re looking to take it to a deeper academic level the second year,” he said.

Kerry Timmerman, principal at Park High School, said they would not make any significant changes this year. During the “implementation year,” he said he worked with district tech staff to resolve occasional glitches in the building’s infrastructure and met periodically with administrators in the other four pilot schools to compare notes.

“We’ve learned where the bumps are,” he said.

Becky Schroeder, principal at Oltman Middle School, said they have disabled some apps such as iMessage. Too many students were passing notes in class, so to speak.

“Kids would message during class even though the teacher would say, ‘No messaging,’” Schroeder said.

Administrators at Oltman also realized they needed to do a better job of educating parents about the iPads — what sites and apps were blocked to exactly what the $28 insurance policy covered. (It covers damage or theft of the device but not the cord, charger or case.)

They also needed a new way to speed up the distribution process. It took so long to set up each student with their own iPad last year that they had to add an extra day to register the sixth grade class, Schroeder said.

“We learned that we need smaller groups,” she said.

This year, administrators included an informal workshop as part of their iPad distribution night.

Last week, parents and their kids reported to the media center to register.

Some left after they’d had their child’s name checked off and had written a check for the insurance. Others stayed behind to get help setting up their own Apple ID account. District tech staff circulated among the tables to help them get their devices up and running.

“We learned a lot from last year,” computer specialist Dan Hnatyk said. “There’s a lot less iPads to hand out this year, since only the incoming students in sixth grade are getting them. It’s a lot more low-key.”

Jessica Koosmann brought her son, Logan, 11, to sign up for an iPad. Logan will start sixth grade at Oltman Sept. 2.

“My kids know more about it than I do,” she said.

She compared notes with Steph Lowe, of Cottage Grove, who brought her son, Joshua, 11.

“Do you like it?” Koosmann asked.

“I didn’t have problems with it,” Lowe replied.

“Breaking them would be the biggest concern,” Koosmann said.

Redeate Kidanue, 10, came with her mother, Aida Shitaye. The family lives in Cottage Grove.

Among other things, her mother likes the fact that carrying an iPads should pose less of a physical burden for Redeate.

“Last year she had a really heavy backpack,” Shitaye said. “I couldn’t even carry it.”

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