Lu Ferguson 0

Request for re-evaluation of the decision to purchase iPad Mini’s for high school students of Lexington Richland 5 School District

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Lexington Richland School District 5 (LR5) is looking to integrate personal devices into classroom learning and has investigated a number of options based on a variety of research conducted by participants of a technology task force made up of LR5 staff, teachers, parent volunteers and others. There are two options being recommended by this task force - purchasing iPad mini devices for all LR5 high school students or offering a Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) plan which would allow students that already have personal devices (tablets, iPads, laptops, etc.) to use those and LR5 only purchases devices for students unable to provide their own. In a school district as affluent as ours, it begs the question is purchasing iPad minis or any device for that matter a prudent expenditure for the district. According to a survey conducted two years ago, approximately 68 % of our students already have access to a personal technology device. That number has probably increased as new products continue to come into the marketplace. While we agree with the district’s emphasis on producing students able to compete in a fast-changing 21st century global economy, we do not believe a one-size-fits-all approach to providing technology access is in the best interest of our students, educators or district. At present, LR5 seems to be leaning toward purchasing iPad minis for all high school students. This is a concern not only from a cost perspective, but when you consider how rapidly technology advances occur in the personal device marketplace, is buying a device that will mostly likely be outdated before the four-year high school window really make the most sense for our limited technology dollars? To buy iPad minis for all LR5 HS students based on current enrollment figures, the estimated cost would be $1,714,748.00. That exceeds the budgeted $1.2 million for technology upgrades and only takes into account the cost of the hardware itself. Where will the additional funding come for the software, cases, apps, syncing devices, etc. that will be needed by the district for this initiative to be successful? You must also consider the annual cost associated with adding rising middle school students to the program each year. Early estimates for the overall project costs to implement this iPad mini purchasing program through 2017 are in excess of $3.4 million and that’s just on devices (hardware). It doesn’t include all the additional resources needed for successful implementation. Other factors that should be taken into account include the feasibility of implementing such a large scale plan district-wide, the current training/experience level of teachers to integrate personal devices into the learning environment, the schools' current technology infrastructure and ability to accommodate thousands of personal devices running smoothly each day, and the cost of replacing school-owned devices upon student-created damage, among others. While much time has gone into researching this proposal, it would seem prudent to schedule a pilot implementation program that would start with a few classes at each school or maybe integrating one school at a time. Another option would be testing both options at same or different schools to gain better perspective of how best practices may be employed. To integrate estimated 5,212 students and an estimated 150 8th grade teachers at one time seems daunting at best. Thinking an iPad mini purchased in 2013 is still going to be functioning and relevant (up to date on latest, greatest technology) in 2017 is a bit naive. We change phones every 18-24 months and laptops run about three years. Thinking a device carried around by teenagers to and from school without damage much less obsolescence in a four-year period doesn't add up. Why would the district not consider leasing devices instead of purchasing? Or better yet, letting the students bring their own devices which would significantly reduce LR5's expense? And another question, why an Apple device? Why not a Nexus tablet, Kindle, Nook or Chromebook? Each of which is much less in price than an Apple device. Also, why are we not looking at what students can be tested upon based on the Smarter Balanced requirements versus what is hip for teens to have access to today? Have the students been assessed to see who has access to personal devices and who doesn’t? These are all valid questions that should be addressed as the district moves forward on this path to integrate personal devices into the classroom. We want our students to be good Communicators, Creators, Collaborators and Critical Thinkers. Are we as decision makers no less worthy of exhibiting these same skills as we assess best practices for moving forward? While the media is full of stories of how iPads are changing the way people learn, interact, and collaborate, rushing to make such a significant multi-million dollar investment in devices to keep up with other schools in the state or region presents a serious concern for us as parents and taxpayers. Having a pilot program to assess which method is best, most affordable, easiest to implement, manage, and tweak would seem a better approach than jumping in headfirst without a true plan for all the variables that will undoubtedly come into play when you are dealing with thousands of students and teachers. We respectfully ask Dr. Hefner, the LR5 administration and school board to please consider stepping back and reviewing these concerns before authorizing an across-the-board, one-size-fits-all approach to engaging technology into our students' lives and classrooms. Implementing a pilot approach may not only save valuable technology dollars, but also provide more efficient use of our technology professionals and educators’ time to make this transition to personal devices in the classroom a true win-win for all!


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