ENCINITAS — Some students got a welcomed surprise when they learned they were the recipients of shiny new iPads. The classroom of the 21st century is becoming more oriented towards digital learning devices and less reliant on the standard textbook and worksheet packets to the delight of many parents and students.
The Encinitas Union School District crossed the digital divide in the classroom after multiple discussions and test runs. The district bought 40 iPads earlier this year for a group of teachers and administrators to use to determine whether the devices were the best digital tool for students.
The district employees are members of a specialized committee formed to tackle the issue of how to best upgrade technology in the district’s classrooms. Over the past two years the group has researched and vetted several technology options.
How the cash-strapped district can afford what seems to be an extravagance to some in the community is a point of contention. Last year voters passed Prop. P which enabled the district to borrow $44 million for a variety of projects, including $11 million earmarked for general technology upgrades and to purchase computers for students.
“There is a part of me that thinks the use of an iPad in school to learn is unnecessary,” said Jim Suttles a parent whose children graduated from Encinitas district schools several years ago. “On the other hand, this is a whole new world where not having access to these kinds of devices in the classroom can be a real disadvantage, so I don’t know that spending the money is that bad of an investment.”
Bridget Flaska, whose fourth-grader attends Park Dale Lane Elementary, said she heard rumors about the iPad instruction prior to the beginning of school. However, the realization that her son, Shelton, would be using mobile technology applications in everyday instruction was thrilling.
“He’s really excited about getting an iPad,” Flaska said. “Aside from the benefits of the educational applications downloading entire textbooks reduces the heavy physical load that kids have at that age.”
“(The iPad) just simplifies so much in the classroom,” Flaska said. “Not to mention the technological advances that students are a part of now with the iPad, it’s a huge advantage for them.”
As of now, students in grades four through six have access to their own iPad, but it must stay at school. Some parents would prefer that students be allowed to bring the device home.
“If she had an opportunity to use it at home it would give her greater confidence and I think she would be more accountable and responsible,” said Peter Bensen, whose fifth-grader is looking forward to working on her new iPad. “A lot of kids already have some electronic device at home or they use their parents’ so I don’t really see an issue with taking them home.”
Flaska said parents are integral to a child’s success at school and that doesn’t end when technology begins.
“It’s important to educate the parents too,” Flaska said regarding the use of technology in general, including the iPads in school. “In order for our children to get the most benefit out of the iPads, parents should have a certain comfort level with incorporating technology into learning.”