Art Colley, the director of business and technology for the school district, said that Apple has “confirmed that we’re the only district in Connecticut” that is establishing a program in which a whole grade level will be using an iPad provided by the school for their instruction.
“The iPad is going to become part and parcel of how we deliver our program at the high school,” he said of the program for the freshmen at Brookfield High School (BHS) that will begin during the next academic year.
Colley said the iPads, which will cost about $500 each, would store “$700 to $1,000” worth of textbooks, a calculator and note-taking materials.
“It’s going to be the equivalent of the textbooks, if not more,” he said, noting that most textbooks cost $80 to $100 and a graphing calculator costs $125.
School district administrators have said the program would be cost-neutral because, among other things, the district would not have to purchase new hardcover textbooks.
“It’s all going to be in this 10.1 inch device that doesn’t weigh very much,” Colley said.
“Instead of a backpack stacked with six books, you’re going to have a backpack with an iPad and maybe one book.”
Colley said he believes the district will soon “look hard” at using electronic textbooks at the other three schools since it would produce cost savings and make students more fluent in digital technology.
“I think things are very different,” he said regarding the changes that have resulted since the Internet boom began in the late 1990s. “We’re all under pressure to do more with what we have or do more with less. In some instances you can do that through technology.”
Colley said he hopes that every student in the school would have an iPad by the fall 2014, since the district plans to provide the devices to each freshman class over the subsequent years.
He said the district might reach that goal even sooner if it can acquire grant money.
Colley said the district chose to buy the iPads from Apple because it “has more in their products than any of the other vendors do.”
The business and technology director, who has been with the school district since the fall 2006, said the ninth grade teachers have already received iPads and were scheduled to get some training in how to use them at a professional development day June 22 and will continue to practice with them over the summer.
Colley said the Distributive Education Clubs of America chapter at BHS also has received a grant to purchase some iPads.
He credited departing BHS Principal Bryan Luizzi with initiating discussions about the iPad program last fall as administrators began formulating the proposed budget for the next fiscal year.
“Bryan was a key part of this,” Colley said of Luizzi, who served as the technology operations manager at Newtown High School earlier in his career. He will leave BHS next week to .
Even though the proposed education budget was cut by $150,000 after it was defeated in , the Board of Education (BOE) opted to retain funding to hire a second library-media specialist at BHS, who will largely oversee the Skills 21 program that the freshmen will take to learn about how to use the iPads and practice digital citizenship.
“It’s important to do this whole initiative correctly,” Colley said regarding the need to have a second library-media specialist. “That person will be in charge of teaching the Skills 21 class, which is critical.”
He said that in Skills 21, every freshman will, during the first marking period, learn how to operate the iPad and do proper research on the Internet.
Colley said the second library-media specialist, who will join veteran library-media specialist Sydnye Cohen, will cover the information literacy skills before a meeting with the parents of the freshmen is held and the iPads are distributed.
He said school officials will review a “pretty lengthy policy” on the iPads with students and parents at the meeting, which includes provisions on proper use and what “happens if a student breaks it or loses it.”
Colley said the iPads would be used through a Wi-Fi system that would allow the school to “manage what’s going on during the course of the day.” If a student were using the device inappropriately, “We would not only know it was you, we’d know where you were in the building,” he explained.
“We can’t control what they’re doing at home,” he said. “That’s why we want to meet with the parents and discuss our expectations.”
Colley said he believes that more high school online classes will be offered over time, but he doesn’t expect it to grow in leaps and bounds as it has at some colleges.
“In college, it’s different,” he said. “The responsibility is on the student.”
“We’re bound by law,” Colley said regarding kindergarten through 12th grade operations. “We have to make sure the kids get their education.”
He said more schools might start offering hybrid courses in which there are fewer classroom meetings and the time that had previously been devoted to classroom instruction would be devoted to students doing projects online and engaging more actively in what they’re learning.