Wilmington Schools Open to iPad or Laptop Learning
Superintendent of Schools Joanne Benton said it is critical for schools to change and adapt to the technology of the world.
Technology is ever changing. But just how much the technology inside Wilmington classrooms changes in the near future remains to be seen.
With high schools and colleges in the area turning to 1:1 programs that provide each student with an iPad, there are learning opportunities that go beyond textbooks. Burlington High School students received iPads last year and Regis College recently made the decision to turn into an all-iPad college.
Wilmington Superintendent of Schools Joanne Benton said the district is open to the 1:1 concept. Benton said that while iPads are strong pieces of equipment for receiving content, they do not allow students to create content and thus in a 1:1 program the district prefers laptops over iPads.
“The Wilmington Public Schools has considered and has in place a plan devised to get a device into the hands of every student in the district,” said Benton. “The iPad would be a great device as an e-reader or way for students to get their interactive content or their textbooks as digital media. I just would not suggest it as the primary or first device a student should have.”
Benton said the estimated base cost of $530 for an iPad, including a cover, does not provide the same processing power or functionality of even a low-end laptop that could be purchased for $300. A laptop could be used for spreadsheets, document processing, digital photography and more rather than just document reading, Benton said.
The district currently uses a limited number of iPads for assistive technology, speech and language therapies, classroom walkthroughs by principals and more.
Wilmington’s superintendent said there is a long list of reasons why the 1:1 program would make sense for the district.
“From a practical standpoint, 1:1 devices can make the life of a student much simpler,” said Benton. “Imagine not having to carry all of your books home every night. You wouldn’t need to if all of your books were on computer files loaded onto your device. There would be less paper to fill up your locker, since your virtual locker would be online. All of your homework could come in and out of an online storage locker and be handed in to the teacher electronically. The 1:1 device can make the leap to a paperless world much easier.”
But there are also drawbacks. If a student loses their device, their parents would be responsible for purchasing a new one, though Benton said it would be the same if a current student lost a backpack full of books.
Benton also said that cheating, copying of homework and respectful communication are also concerns, but each is a topic currently taught to students in the “digital and physical realms,” Benton said.
With the construction of a new high school will come a wireless infrastructure capable of handling a projected three devices per student. Benton said the infrastructure could handle each student at the school using a phone, tablet and laptop.
In preparation for a new school that Benton and other officials have said will bring Wilmington into “21st century learning,” current high school administrators have begun testing out new methods of teaching.
The district is constructing a 1:1 initiative wing of the current high school as a pilot group for 1:1 at the new school, Benton said. That way the school will devise methods of teaching and gain experience that will carry over when the school is finished in several years.
“A proposal has been written and will be brought before the School Committee (for a 1:1 program) on August 22,” said Benton. “The School Committee, the Director of Information Technology and I are still working out the details of a 1:1 initiative because it is such a grand undertaking. We will need to include students, teachers, administrative staff, and parents.”
Overall, Benton said it is critical for school administrators to be open to the change in technology, including the possibility of 1:1 initiatives.
“Technology itself is a tool and it is only really useful when it is applied to the subjects we teach,” said Benton. “I’ve heard people say that students “unplug” to go to school and then plug back in when they leave. For modern students, schools are behind in their ability to mirror modern life and times.”
The superintendent used an example to describe why the district must keep up with new technology.
“Imagine if you worked for a delivery company and drove a shiny new Ferrari to work every day,” said Benton. “When you arrive at work, your boss tells you to take a horse and carriage out of the stable and deliver packages around the city. Then at the end of the day, you get back in your Ferrari and drive home.”
Though the school is considering iPads or laptops, and not Ferraris, Benton said the story shows why it’s important for the district to keep up with the times.
“If this were the case, you would seriously start to wonder if your boss knew what he was doing,” said Benton. “So it is extremely important for schools to change and adapt to new technology.”