L'ANSE - Tuesday was a great day to be an eighth-grade student at L'Anse Area Schools.
The district held an open house in the school cafetorium Tuesday evening mainly to present a new technology initiative that will eventually put a tablet in the hands of every student in the district. The evening culminated with the distribution of ASUS Transformer tablets to each eighth-grade student, who, along with second-grade students will be the pilot group for the multi-year phase-in process.
Second-grade students will not be allowed to take the devices home, and they will be left in the classroom.
Stephen Anderson/Daily Mining Gazette
L’Anse Area Schools computer applications instructor and technology advisory committee member Jennifer Rubin explains the classroom benefits of the ASUS Transformer tablets during a public presentation about the district’s new 1:1 Technology Initiative Tuesday evening in the school cafetorium.
"Instead of students going to the technology, the technology is going to the students," said Ray Pasquali, LAS superintendent. "We're probably the second local school and one of the few in the U.P. who have stuck their chin out and said, 'Let's get moving.'"
The Public Schools of Calumet, Laurium & Keweenaw is the only other local district with widespread distribution of tablets, with iPads going to students in grades 4 through 12 through grant funding.
L'Anse's 1:1 Technology Initiative will be funded largely by the school through savings from not having to update computer labs, by going paperless and other savings. While grant funding is not out of the question in the future, the district wanted the flexibility to adapt to feedback after year one and keep the project sustainable through a four-year phasing in process. After that span, each year three grades will have their tablets replaced, meaning as the technology becomes obsolete, the tablets will be replaced every four years.
"We're going to be spending the money in a different way, but making this sustainable," junior/senior high school principal Carrie Meyer said. "This is a transition year and we're going to ease our way into it so that we are doing it properly and that we're educating our teachers along the way.
"We will be one-to-one in four years, K-12. That is exciting."
Pasquali and Meyer both acknowledged potential issues with giving students a $450 device, but both emphasized throughout the presentation the district will encourage "responsible use," instead of avoiding problems by banning personal technology devices on school grounds altogether.
"We realize that we're putting the hands of these eighth graders a very, very expensive device, and I've heard some concerns from some parents saying, 'I don't know if my child is responsible enough to handle a device like this,'" Meyer said. "We'll work with you to teach responsible usage."
To prevent damage, the district invested in durable Gumdrop Cases for each ASUS Transformer tablet. If a tablet is damaged, it will require a $50 replacement fee. If a tablet is damaged or needs replacing a second time, it will require the full replacement value.
"I think it's a great idea, but just the fact of what if the kid damages it more than once or twice and you're a low-income family how can you pay for that," said Emmie Heikkila, the mother of eighth-grader Cole Younggren, who was the first one to receive a tablet for her son in the library after the presentation. "But as for the technology I think it's great.
"Hopefully, this will get him more interactive into school. I'm thinking it'll work because he likes his Xbox 360."
Administrators emphasized they will be collecting feedback throughout the year on the project and the seven-member technology committee will evaluate the initiative before entering phase two. The plan is to give tablets to students in grades 2, 3, 8, 9, 10, 11 and 12 next year, have tablets for all students grades 2-12 the following year, and K-12 by 2015-16.
"The next year is going to be somewhat of an experiment, not only for the students, but also for the staff. We're not going to rush into this," Pasquali said. "We're going to address (problems or issues), we're going to defeat them, and we're going to be better for it."
Teacher Jennifer Rubin, who is on the technology committee gave a brief demonstration of possible use of the devices, including a platform called Moodle, which allows better in-classroom communication and in-class quizzes with immediate results generated.
"It allows us to communicate to our students, and it allows us to collaborate with our students, and our students with each other," Rubin said.
After the presentation, which also included an introduction of teachers and staff, and an overview of other policies, parents and students formed a long line outside the library, anxiously awaiting distribution of the tablets.
"I think it's pretty cool that now it's going to be much easier to learn having all the devices," eighth-grader Emma Ostermeyer said. "I think it's a big improvement for the school."
For more information on the initiative, visit lanseschools.org.