Decatur schools introduce tablets

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DECATUR - By mid-February, every Decatur Public Schools student will have an i-Pad tablet or MacBook computer, as a two-year project to introduce the technology into schools concludes, administrators said.

The cost of the tablets is covered by specific federal grants which must be used for specific purposes, said Superintendent Lisa Taylor who, earlier in the week, discussed the need for spending cuts in coming years.

“We got several million (dollars) in title funds that can only be used for certain things; you can’t use them to pay for (just) anything,” Taylor said. “We had, in our title grant application, provided for the technology for two years to go one-to-one, so our money was really designated for that and it was out of this year’s grant, so we’re looking at making some reductions for next year.”

While each student will have his or her own i-Pad or MacBook, they will not be allowed to take them home at night or keep them, Taylor said.

“The big advantage for teachers and students is for teachers and students to have the ability to research information, which is more aligned with Common Core. So they can use their device to research information, to also present findings, so they can present in small groups or to the class.”

Jill Hubbard, the district’s Instructional Technology Coach, said using i-Pads in the classroom allowed her to share students’ work with their families.

“As they completed projects, they were able to save it in Google Drive,” Hubbard said. “I was able to access it. Their parents were able to access it. So work that they did at school that a parent might not necessarily see, they could see at home.”

Still, some teachers remain skeptical of the value of such devices in class. A 2012 survey by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation found that “teachers are concerned about the true benefits of technology for their students. Despite recognition of the importance of technology in education, many teachers report skepticism about the actual benefits of using technology in the classroom because there is little, widely accepted proof that technology tools provide real value for student learning.”

Taylor, however, said schools must embrace technology.

“You have to get on board with how kids learn today,” Taylor said. “I have a two-year-old great-niece who uses an i-Phone already, and so kids learn differently than we did and it’s our responsibility as a school to keep up-to-date.”

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