A group of about two dozen Bettendorf High School freshmen sat around tables in the school library last week, each with a fresh-out-of-the-box new Apple iPad in front of them, as math teacher and school tech team member Colin Wikan walked them through how to set up a security code and basic care and maintenance.
The high school is in the process of distributing about 800 iPad tablets to its freshman and sophomore classes at a cost of $450,000.
Teachers at the high school have had their iPads for about six months and will begin integrating the students’ iPads into their classroom work later this month, associate principal Matt Degner said.
Degner told a group of about 70 students and their parents gathered in the high school cafeteria Wednesday that the school’s iPad rollout is one of very few among Iowa’s largest high schools.
“We are really excited,” he said.
Bettendorf is among a small group of local schools to distribute tablets or laptop computers to students. The school districts in Erie, Ill., and DeWitt, Maquoketa and Durant, Iowa, have similar programs.
There are applications that can make the devices useful in a variety of classes, from research for social studies and writing English papers to conducting scientific testing and art applications.
The students will turn in their iPads at the end of the school year but will be given the same device again at the beginning of the next school year, an incentive for the student to take care of the devices, Degner said.
The school’s next two classes of incoming freshmen also will receive new iPads, so every Bettendorf student will have one in two years, Degner said.
Before receiving their device, students and their parents are required to attend one of several scheduled meetings, where Degner goes through the rules and expectations that come along with the devices.
Among the rules:
Students are not to remove the device from the case supplied by the school or alter the case in any way, as doing so may void the insurance policy purchased by the district.
Students are responsible for the content on their device, including photos, applications, movies and music. Degner said students can have items on their device that are not related to school, but told them, “Be smart about it.”
The first two repairs within the first two years cost the student $49. Students pay the full cost of repairs after the first two, up to $250. Devices that are lost or stolen can be replaced for $250.
Students can face discipline for having inappropriate materials on their device, but because the devices will be needed for class work, the school’s first response to infractions won’t be to take the device away, Degner said.
Anne Cervantes said she was interested to see how her son, freshman Josh Walls, would be using the device for school, and said she thought it was a good opportunity for the students.
“I just hope he doesn’t damage it or lose it,” she said.
Josh said he was “deeply excited” about getting his iPad.
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Wayne Vittori said he was skeptical when his daughter, freshman Alena Shoemaker, told him she would be getting an iPad at no cost.
He also had some concerns about the device being lost or damaged, but he said Alena always had been responsible with her cellphone and laptop computer. Vittori said he thought the iPads were a good way for the students to keep up with modern technology.
“Anything that helps them streamline their education,” he said.
While the students were getting their devices, Degner spoke with parents about how to talk to their students about issues such as cyberbullying and sharing too much personal information online.
Degner also reminded students and parents not to take the device to outside sources for troubleshooting, because that also could void the insurance policy.
The school has a team of teachers trained to assist with technical problems, as well as the Bulldog Youth Tech Educators, or BYTE Squad, a group of students trained to help, as well.
BYTE Squad member and freshman Fritzy Swearingen said the group hasn’t dealt with many problems yet, but members expect to get busier in a couple of weeks once all of the devices have been distributed.
Another BYTE Squad member, freshman Nate Walczyk, said his classmates’ experience with iPad technology runs the gamut from beginner to expert, but he thinks they all will benefit from integrating the technology into their school day.
“It’s a really good opportunity for kids,” he said.