District 181 board members have OK’d the second phase of a pilot program collecting data on the benefits of one-to-one student-to-iPad use three months after the board turned down a plan to make one-to-one tablet use the norm in district classrooms.
The board of education voted 5-2 at its Sept. 24 meeting at Elm School to continue the @d181 Initiative, which during the 2011-12 school year evaluated in several fifth-grade classes the benefits of one-to-one iPad use compared to one-to-one laptop use, and this year will collect data only on the use of the iPad.
The @d181 committee in June recommended that the board approve a plan that over three years would have put a school-issued tablet in the hands of every student in third through eighth grade. Board members chose not to act on that recommendation and instead asked the committee to present a plan for further research that would produce more data pertaining to the iPad’s educational benefits.
READ: Plan for Widespread iPad Use Nixed by District 181 Board
That plan is what board members got last week.
During the current 2012-13 school year, the iPad pilot program that last year only included fifth-graders at Elm will be expanded to also include fifth graders at The Lane School and two other third- or fourth-grade teams from the district's elementary schools who will, as part of what the @d181 committee refers to as a "grant process," apply to be a part of the pilot program.
Data collected during the pilot program, according to the @d181's presentation last week, will include learner outcomes, such as MAP scores of iPad users versus non-iPad users, student observations and assessments by parents and teachers.
“All members of the building grade level team must agree to be part of the action research, be willing to have board members, community members, and/or other District 181 staff members visit their classroom, and be willing to complete professional development,” the board report detailing the plan reads.
The expanded pilot program will cost the district $138,000. Of that, $100,000 is going towards the purchasing of 210 new iPads, $25,000 is going towards software, and $13,000 is going towards professional development.
The program’s expenses were placed in the contingency section of the 2012-13 budget so that any related purchases will have to come before the board before being made.
Board President Michael Nelson voted in favor of the pilot program along with board members Sarah Lewensohn, Russell Rhoads, Marty Turek and Glenn Yaeger.
Brendan Heneghan and Yvonne Mayer voted against it.
Nelson said the community always wants to know how things like one-to-one iPad use contribute to keeping District 181 a high-performing district.
“I can’t answer that question without having at least a little bit of data and the way I get there is some form of research,” he said. “That’s why I think this makes sense to me.”
Rhoads called the continued pilot program “a happy medium” reached between the board and the committee, and Yaeger commended the committee for implementing the grant process, which aims to put iPads only in the classrooms whose teachers show they’re ready and willing to have them.
“It’s a really great idea,” Yaeger said.
Heneghan, who has expressed skepticism towards the educational benefits of iPads throughout the @d181 discussion, said he worries about kids in third-grade using iPads regularly, and was concerned that the district did not lay out the full suite of iPad applications teachers will be using.
Mayer, meanwhile, said she has heard from a significant number of parents who don’t want iPads in elementary classrooms and is concerned that teachers have enough on their plate without the iPad pilot program.
“I would ask the rest of the board to ponder how we can expect our teachers and our students to do all these different things this year all at the same time,” Mayer said.
After the pilot program was approved last week, third- and fourth-grade teachers were informed of the grant process. The grant application deadline is Oct. 5., and selections will be made by Oct. 19.