School Officials Discuss Need for iPads
On April 11, the Board of Education unanimously approved the purchase of 112 of the devices, which will be used by district administrators to help conduct daily classroom observations.
More than eight months of research went into determining if purchasing iPads would be beneficial to Douglas County School System administrators, officials said.
At the April 11 Board of Education meeting, the board voted 5-0 to purchase 112 iPad units for $70,448 and iPad covers for $4,367, all paid through federal funding.
Todd Hindmon, the district’s information technology director, said the cost, effectiveness and flexibility of Apple’s tablet-sized computer helped him to get past his initial hesitation toward recommending such a popular consumer product for administrator use.
“This is typically a device I’d say no to, but I realized how effective this device would be for administrators for multiple reasons: communication, data collection, data analysis and immediate feedback,” he said. “And even beyond that, there will be more things we don’t even know yet.”
Hindmon felt even better about his recommendation after the 122-member system-wide technology committee backed using iPads. The committee is made up of students, parents, business owners, teachers and personnel from the Georgia Department of Education and Kennesaw State University.
“We work with (the technology committee) because we don’t want to make an unwise purchase,” said Catherine Magouyrk, associate superintendent of student achievement and leadership.
Prior to the vote, Board member Janet Kelley of Post 3, which includes Lithia Springs High School, relayed how her 24-year-old daughter was given technology tools from her company to do her job, “and it’s time we do the same for our educators.”
Although the device is often used for entertainment purposes, Superintendent Gordon Pritz said the iPads will be used solely as tools.
“It’s not a gadget or toy. It’s an instrument and a tool to help them do their job more efficiently and effectively,” he said. “We’re requiring teachers to perform by producing strong student outcomes, and at the same time, we’re asking administrators to evaluate that performance."
"With this tool and through this (walk-through) application on the iPad," he added, "they can be more efficient with the results they’ve observed.”
Walk-throughs are daily observations that administrators in the school system use for mentoring and evaluating teachers.
For the last three years, administrators were using Hewlett-Packard’s handheld iPAQ. However, they were increasingly having more problems with the outdated devices, which use a stylus pen “and couldn’t write or type anything—just tally,” Professional Learning Director Rhonda Baldwin said.
“Four of about 60 (iPAQs) have died this year and are out of warranty,” Baldwin said.
Baldwin said that at a February meeting, principals started discussing eWalk, the free application the district uses for walk-throughs, teacher observations and student-learning observations. The administrators noted that the application was now available on iPhones and iPads.
Because of the limitations of the iPAQ—its small 3-inch screen, “frustrating” stylus and other issues—principals started to ask for iPads to use for walk-throughs, Baldwin said.
“As soon as the walk-through is completed and uploaded, the information that supported the walk-through is sent to the teacher,” she said. “The previous one (iPAQ), you had to print out a copy of the walk-through to give to the teacher.”
During the last few months, she added, administrators were ditching the iPAQs and instead were using their personal iPhones and iPads.
Not surprisingly, Baldwin said the Douglas County Board of Education’s unanimous vote to purchase iPads was well received by the district’s administrators.
“Within two days, we heard from 98 percent of our administrators,” she said. “One of my principals called and said their assistant principal was skipping down the hall (because) he was so excited about having an iPad to use for walk-throughs.”
Hindmon said Board of Education members may also get iPads in the future because of the likely cost savings. He said commercial-class laptops cost the district roughly $1,300 each, while commercial iPads would cost about $630 a piece.
Baldwin said the iPad purchase should be made by the end of April, and the devices should be delivered by the end of May or early June. She added that principals will receive iPad implementation training in June and will begin using them for walk-throughs in August.