SOCSD rolls out new iPads for teachers

Armstrong Middle School Assistant Principal Tonya Jones hands an iPad to sixth grade math teacher Ashley Allen.The district is leasing 2,000 iPads from Apple, mainly for use in secondary classrooms. Teachers district-wide were issued iPads Friday. (Photo by Charlie Benton, SDN)

Staff Writer

Teachers in the Starkville-Oktibbeha Consolidated School District now have another resource for their classrooms with the distribution of new iPads Friday.

The iPads were rolled out and distributed to teachers at Armstrong Middle School, Starkville High School, Henderson Ward Stewart Elementary School and The Learning Center. Carts of iPads are also arriving for use by secondary students at AMS and SHS. The school board approved a four-year lease of 2,000 iPads at a cost of approximately $800,000 in August. The amount will be paid over the four years, and also includes professional development for teachers from Apple.

“We want to get the devices into their hands and train them so that they can use them with their students,” said Superintendent Eddie Peasant.

Peasant said using technology in the classroom was important in teaching the current generation of students, who have been using technology their entire lives.

“These students are digital natives, and this is a world that they know, and that they’re growing up in,” Peasant said. “It’s our goal through this program for our teachers to have the opportunity to close that digital gap between teachers and students and meet students where they are, where their interests are.”

Peasant said having the devices in the classroom would give the students an opportunity to learn the way they want to.

“It will definitely allow the teachers to enhance their instruction, but our teachers will be able to take the children to where they have not gone before as far as instruction,” said AMS Principal Julie Kennedy. “They’ve grown up in a digital world. The kids are very familiar with devices. We want to connect school and work together and allow them to go to these places and to learn from them.”

A group of approximately 15 teachers received their iPads ahead of schedule, and are serving as peer leaders, making sure other teachers know how to properly use their devices. This group, called the Vanguard
group, has received additional training on the devices from Apple.

“Apple has done a tremendous job with focusing on K-12 education and developing apps and other programs for teachers to be able to use to be more effective in the classroom,” Peasant said. “They have a clear understanding of what today’s learners need.”

He emphasized the importance of professional development on the iPads.

“The best way to protect our investment is to make sure we have people trained to use them correctly and most effectively,” Peasant said.

Jon Zarandona, who teaches cyber foundations at AMS and is part of the Vanguard group, said the teachers would now have the opportunity to learn how to use technology theywere already somewhat familiar with in the classroom.

“Many of our staff are already very comfortable with smart phones, with iPhone products, but taking that familiarity and comfort with the iPhone and translating it to the iPad is what we’re trying to do now,” Zarandona said. “It’s using the iPad as a tool for learning and not just another piece of technology.”

He said the devices would make for better engagement and presentation with students.

Zarondona said he plans to utilize opportunities for creativity and collaboration with the iPads. He also said one difficulty he and many other teachers will face is their classrooms currently being PC equipped.

"That’s going to be the hardest part for the teachers is transitioning from a PC desktop to an iPad,” Zarandona said. “It’s the same skills, just on a different platform, and it’s getting used to the different platform.”

In addition to the iPad each teacher received, AMS also received 14 carts of 40 iPads for classroom use.

“The teachers are excited for the training,” Kennedy said. “They’re excited to take this into the classroom. It’s something that we’ve been talking about for a while now, and we’re excited to see that come to fruition.”