Part 1 of 5: Administrators talk about the 'Internet Generation' and the one to one computer initiative
Gone are the days of toting heavy textbooks. Instead, some area junior and senior high school students have lightened their load to about 5 pounds — the weight of an Apple MacBook computer.
This school year is the first that many area schools have embraced the one to one computer initiative, providing each student with a computer of their own for use in class and at home.
Most schools doing one to one are using MacBooks, with the exception of Culver Community — they decided to go with iPads for every student.
To demystify the why and how of the one-to-one initiative, the Pilot News talked with schools in Marshall County that are participating in the program — and those that are not. Over the next week, check back to find out more about technology in education — and what it means for you and your family.
Anyone who has been to a Best Buy recently can attest to the fact that computer options are almost endless. Why are schools using MacBooks, which start at a retail price of $1,199, instead of going with a more inexpensive PC such as Dell or HP?
School administrators across the board said they that chose Apple because of the quality, durability, and creative opportunities of the machines.
Dan Funston, Lincoln Jr. High principal, said that the goal is for kids to not only consume information online, but also be able to create good quality assignments.
“Mac is by far the best platform for kids to create,” said Funston, adding, “A poster board just isn’t the same anymore. We want the kids to do quality work.”
Funston’s students are in their second year of the one to one program.
“Apple is one of the more innovative and creative companies that exist,” agreed Ken Olson, Plymouth High School’s dean of students.
One of the things that Plymouth High School’s students are creating is their own material for parent-teacher conferences. In conferences this year, the student will present and walk their parents through their accomplishments in each subject using their computers.
“The goal is to have students take ownership of their performance,” said Plymouth High School principal Jim Condon.
A major component of what Apple offers is many applications, or “apps” that provide students with almost limitless resources to do their homework and classwork. Teachers use iTunes to create podcasts, which students can subscribe to and watch at home. This may be the beginning of what is called “flip instruction” — where students watch a video of the lesson for homework and use all their actual class time to do hands-on learning activities.
Culver Community High School principal Albert Hanselman said that the school chose iPads because of their cost (the iPad retails for $499, while MacBooks start at $1199). While a MacBook looks like a typical laptop, the iPad is a touch screen, with no physical keyboard.
“We thought that for functionality, the iPad 2 could do what we wanted it to do, with the exception of extended keyboarding or word-processing,” said Hanselman.
Even without the use of a physical keyboard, Hanselman thinks that students will have no problem using the touch screen to type.
“There are kids who can text 70-100 words a minute (on their phones),” pointed out Hanselman.
“So they can type on this,” he continued, gesturing to the iPad on his desk.
Hanselman added that since iPads are inexpensive compared to MacBooks, Culver Community was able to purchase the devices for both the junior and senior high students.
“We can put more iPads into more students’ hands,” said Hanselman.
Hanselman also said that he feels iPads are better because they are less bulky and have less moving parts than a laptop.
Culver Community Middle School principal Julie Berndt said that she believes iPads were chosen because they are the newest technology offered by Apple.
“I just think they (Apple) know how to do it,” said Berndt.
Berndt said that the federal government and Indiana superintendent of schools Tony Bennett is pushing schools to embrace technology.
“They are encouraging us to kind of stop with the textbooks,” said Berndt.
Battery life was another major factor in choosing Apple to provide computers for the schools. By using MacBooks that have up to 10 hours of battery life, students don’t have to have an electrical outlet to do their work. This lets them stay mobile, and also eliminates a need for the schools to install a lot of extra wiring, said Olson.
Olson and Funston also both mentioned that Apple computers seem to be much more virus-proof than PCs.
LaVille Jr.-Sr. High School principal Chuck Phillips said that MacBooks encourage student creativity in a way that another computer might not.
“The PC in my opinion is limited,” said Phillips, who listed “the ability to be creative” along with durability as major benefits of Apple devices.
Phillips believes that the one to one program, along with an increased focus on problem-based learning, will help his students be better prepared for college or the workforce.
Tomorrow: Who pays? Finding the funds for a computer for every student