Hilliard Northwest News

Hilliard schools

Tablets will be primary classroom tools

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Trapper Keepers and protractors once were essential supplies for students.

Starting next year in Hilliard, it will be an iPad.

Beginning in January 2015, all sixth-grade students will be issued an iPad mini as part of the curriculum, Superintendent John Marschhausen said at the March 10 school board meeting.

From there, the devices progressively will be issued to the rest of the district's 15,800 students, though the ones assigned to elementary students will stay at school.

District officials opted to begin the initiative at Station Sixth Grade School and Tharp Sixth Grade School for several reasons, Marschhausen said.

"By starting here, we can hit all of our students and begin (a common) learning curve," he said.

Teachers will receive the iPad minis in August and will become proficient with the equipment as a classroom tool before students begin using the technology in January 2015, Marschhausen said.

He said the district's technology task force discussed using a variety of personal electronic devices before choosing the iPad mini. The district already owns 1,500 models, Marschhausen said, representing about 10 percent of the number needed to eventually make one available to every student in Hilliard schools.

In instances where wireless Internet is not available, the unit is still useful as educational tool because applications and programs can be downloaded to it, Marschhausen said.

In many instances, students want to do homework while riding buses to a game, or other places where there might not be Internet access, he said.

At $299 per unit today, the iPad mini is a cost-effective choice, Marschhausen said.

In some instances, textbooks cost the district $180 each and can be outdated before reaching students, he said, but the iPad minis would allow for live updates of material.

Students who own tablet computers already are using them in classrooms, but Hilliard's plan means the devices will become a primary classroom tool, said Amanda Morris, a spokeswoman for the school district.

"(Electronic devices) represent a transformation in the learning culture in our classrooms and a shift in what we currently know as teaching and learning," said Kim Halley, executive director of curriculum and instruction.

The iPads will be issued to the three middle schools for the 2015-16 school year and at the three high schools for the 2016-17 school year. Marschhausen said district officials might issue different devices to high school students in 2016 because technology advances could be made by then.

At the elementary school levels, where iPads already are in use on carts, the number of carts in use will gradually increase during the next three years, Morris said. The elementary students will have their own tablets in school, but won't take them home.

For older students, families will pay for insurance to cover replacements and repairs. The cost has not been determined but district officials said it would be "nominal," according to The Columbus Dispatch.

Students would have to return the devices at the end of the school year.

District officials said they would not raise taxes to pay for the plan, according to the Dispatch, and they estimate purchasing iPad minis for students and staff members in kindergarten through eighth grade would cost $2 million.

In other business March 10, school board members authorized advertising for bids to replace athletics tracks at Darby and Davidson high schools.

District officials advertised for bids several years ago but did not award the projects because they were "not pleased with the results," Morris said.

The district hopes to receive better bids and possibly replace the tracks this summer, Morris said.

Board members also adopted a resolution accepting a grant of $917,475 from the Straight A Fund of Ohio.

The grant will pay for the renovation of an annex building that was not improved as part of the renovation and conversion of the former administrative offices into the McVey Innovative Learning Center, and fund the addition of a new program, Academy MD, part of the learning center's Young Professionals Network.

Dispatch reporter Charlie Boss contributed to this story.

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