Culver schools prepare for iPads in every student’s hands

By the time most readers hold this, the August 18 edition of this newspaper in their hands, most all of Culver Community’s middle and high school students will have held their brand new iPad personal digital devices in their hands, something about which school officials held a series of meetings about with parents and students the previous week.
Noting Culver Community and Danville, Indiana schools are the first two in the state to incorporate the devices in the “one to one initiative,” CCHS principal Albert Hanselman told assembled parents and students the cost of the devices was funded via tax-based Capital Projects funds as well as grant funding. He said the building is now wireless so each student and teacher can access information anywhere they are on the property.
Each student will be issued one of the devices to keep at school and take home throughout the school year, and students should receive back the same device each fall as they left the previous spring, so their applications (or “apps”) and other data can be kept continuously through their school careers, explained Hanselman.
He noted iPad repair and replacement options will be determined by the school’s tech staff, who may also choose to overnight a given device to the Apple company for repair or replacement via the Apple Care Plan the school has with the company.
“If it’s been damaged by neglect or misuse...the student will be responsible for whatever it costs to repair or replace the device,” he said.
The school corporation has enacted several means of lessening that risk, Hanselman pointed out, including putting automatic locks on student lockers, inclusion of a protective case with each device (training will be given to students on wearing cases around their neck and shoulders for added prevention of spills), and a built-in GPS tracking device on each machine, which will allow pinpointing of lost or stolen devices.
The iPad is said to have 10 hours of battery life per day, he explained, and must be charged daily by students.
Hanselman encouraged parents to use the device and “learn about it” to better acquaint themselves with what their children are doing, for everyone’s safety.
Recently-installed middle school principal Julie Berndt, who transitioned from now-closed Monterey Elementary to CCMS, told the audience the devices have cameras for still photography and video recording, and that students will be urged not to record images of anyone without that person’s permission.
Downloading of games, music, and the like to the devices will be up to teachers’ discretion, she added, emphasizing that anything downloaded will need to follow school guidelines. Hanselman said any student-downloaded app flagged as inappropriate by the school’s server will cause shutdown of the iPad until the app is removed.
“The iPad is designed as a tool for school work,” Hanselman said, encouraging parents and students to guard personal information.
Responding to concerns raised by some about the lack of internet access many students may have outside of school, Hanselman emphasized students should be able to download whatever teachers say they need before they leave the building to go home each day.
The importance of parental monitoring and safeguarding of child safety with regards to the device was reiterated more than once.
“We’re giving your child a device which could be harmful to your child if it’s not handled properly,” Hanselman said. “You wouldn’t let soomeone walk into your child’s room at your home (but) that’s what happens if you don’t monitor your child’s usage of these devices. It may not be physical, but it can be harmful.”
Hanselman encouraged parents to purchase iPad insurance, which may be offered through homeowner’s insurance (though he noted some such policies’ deductables are too high to make the purchase worthwhile), or through onne of many insurance companies. He said the cost is usually $25 to $50 per year, and the school doesn’t require insurance purchase.
The devices are valued at a total of $570, he added. It was noted that some school textbooks, such as science and mathematics, are already replaced by apps loaded onto the devices, said Hanselman, who noted that parents may be asked to purchase a handful of $3 or $4 apps through the school year. He stressed that previously separate tools ranging from dictionaries to scientific calculators will be available to students via their iPads.
It was also noted students will receive training on the devices from teachers and school officials, and that the process of integrating the devices into classrooms as teaching tools may take time.
In today’s world, Hanselman told the audience, “learning is not about what’s in your head, but what’s at your fingertips.
“When kids go out into the world, people want to know if they can problem solve with a group of people -- it’s not just what they know.”
He also said the devices are not meant to improve on the teacher-student relationship, but to enhance student achievement. Following placement of iPods and laptops in students’ hands last year, he added, 92 percent of CCHS’ students passed their assesment in math, which he said “will be one of the higher scores in the state of Indiana.”
Part of the program for parents was a slideshow whose contents are available online at the school’s website, www.culver.k12.in.us. The document contains a “frequently asked questions” section as well as details on care of the devices, cost, and information on school officials’ feelings regarding the value of the project for student education.