Mercer Island to Give All 10th/11th Graders iPads

From the Stranger Slog:

The Mercer Island School District will kick off its "One to One" iPad initiative next month by distributing free iPads to all 10th and 11th graders. The iPads will be used by students for the remainder of the year, returned for the summer, and then redistributed in September.

Say what you want about the economic disparity that allows districts like Mercer Island to hand out iPads while other districts struggle to pay for more basic needs, but I'm guessing that this technology will be the norm in schools, not the exception, by the end of the decade. The advantages over traditional textbooks are too obvious and numerous to list. This is the future.

But there's one huge advantage that might not be so obvious about this inevitable shift away from print and toward digital: It breaks the power of the Texas Board of Education to dictate what is and is not in our nation's textbooks. Because Texas is one of the largest buyers of textbooks in the English-speaking world, publishers would tailor their texts to the state's demands, making textbook approval a highly politicized process in the conservative state. And the economies of scale of printing, warehousing, and distributing meant that the rest of the nation would get these Texas-approved textbooks too.

Goldy is right about the power of the state of Texas over what textbooks get selected by many districts throughout the country.  (I was in the textbook publishing business years back and it was "so goes Texas, so goes the nation" for textbooks.  California was also important but Texas dominated).  

The funding for this comes via their Technology levy.

Some of what is in the iPad agreement sent home to parents (and it's a fair degree of oversight):

  • Students will bring the iPad to school each day unless otherwise instructed with a full battery charge
•Students are not permitted to sync the iPad with a personal computer or to change or otherwise “jailbreak” the device to alter the configuration or functionality that has been
established by the district.

•Students must not leave the iPad unattended at any time while at school. If a student needs to store his/her iPad during the school day, he/she must follow all school procedures for securing unattended iPads when necessary (athletic events, etc.).

- The cost of a loss/theft of an iPad due tonegligence of the studentwill be charged to the parent/
studentand recovered as authorized under Policy and Procedures 3520 (StudentFeesFines,Charges)

.The iPad is meant for student use only. It is not meant to be a family computer or to be used by siblings in any way.

- Parents are responsible for supervising student Internet use while at home; the filtering services we implement on the district network do not transfer to home use. More restrictive settings can be installed upon parent request to limit access to the Internet orother nonacademic uses of the iPad.

-Parents should monitor the use of the iPad at home to ensure that its primary function is
academic and that students are completing assigned school work rather than excessive
gaming, chatting, etc.

One commenter noted that while Mercer Island doesn't want to have to pay the toll for I-90, they can afford iPads for all their high school kids.


Anonymous said…
Shorelin High Schools gave MacBooks to their high schoolers and have recently switched over to iPads. Mercer Island is behind the times. ;o)

Techy said…
The students should make sure to put tape over the cameras as soon as they get the devices. Here's the most publicized instance of abuse:

Philadelphia High School Takes Pictures of Students at Home via District-Issued Laptops

The problem with using any device that's controlled by someone else is that you have no way of knowing what is being monitored and sent back to administrators (or elsewhere). With MacBooks (HP's comment above) or any Windows laptop, there are tools to monitor this behavior, but not so with iPads.

On the other hand, iPad are BY FAR the safest mobile devices around. The latest from CNN:

Android attracts 112 times more malware than Apple's iOS.

Yes, that's 11,200 % ! When looking specifically at new threats, it's 96% Android, 4% Symbian and sub 1% fractions for the others, including iPhone/iOS.

I hope the Mercer Island School District (and the parents) have a good handle on this stuff.
Anonymous said…
Are they coming with cases and keyboards? I know a lot of people don't mind it or have adapted, but I think iPads are awful for typing. They are primarily designed for consumption (and they do this really well). I'd love to see the data showing that providing kids with these tools, at this expense (and with the eventual need to replace them), is more beneficial than other things that cost as much.

- Show Me The Data
Anonymous said…
I think the parent oversight would be onerous in a big city district. If SPS got some miracle grant and tried doing this, there are tons of kids whose parents would not have a clue on how to oversee this (ESL, etc.).

It is definitely the future, but I think expecting teens to comply with all these rules is a bit naive. Their frontal lobes would not always be able to stop them from flipping over to facebook, etc.

Solvay Girl
Anonymous said…
The kids in Shoreline have to buy their own cases and keyboards.

seattle citizen said…
Meanwhile, some Seattle schools have maybe 30 computers in a library lab, two or three laptop carts (20 laptops each) and maybe one or two computers in each classroom. And this as the state and district are readying implemention of the new Smarter Balance test (based on Common Core State Standards, the mis-named new nation-wide standards) which require computers. Smarter Balance will be in addition to, or in lieu of, the HSPE, at 11th grade.

We've read about the problems with administering MAP in buildings - computer access (what little there is) severely curtailed - SB tests will do the same dang thing (but less often...maybe...

Speaking of which, here is a good read on CCSS, and testing generally, from the Washington Post:
Principal: ‘I was na├»ve about Common Core’
They get soft cases but no keyboards. I have a keyboard for my iPad and wouldn't be without it.
Patrick said…
My daughter tells me she can't get full credit in her assignments unless they're typed. I am surprised, we don't have a printer at home so that means trips to the library to print things out.
Won't go quietly said…
Patrick, I do believe that if you were to make a stink about it, that policy would be toast.

Many families in our city don't even have a computer at home, so typing papers adds a special burden to kids that don't need that. Coupled with the MAP test taking computer labs and libraries at school offline for weeks at a time, limited hours at some public libraries, and you have a very strong case.

We dealt with a vaguely similar problem last year and the principal took care of it very quickly -- and tactfully without disclosing who lodged the complaint. It depends on how competent your principal is, of course.
Peanut said…
Shoreline used to give out laptops, then they switched to iPads. Lots of very unhappy teachers and kids who are unable to do really basic stuff on them.

Technology devices for all students should allow them to become producers of content, not just consumers of it.

Providing laptops directly helps families who don't have computers at home. For Patrick's typed paper example above, the teacher needs to provide time for the students to print.

If the student doesn't have a computer at home, then the student should have computer lab time. If none of the above is true, then the teacher should not be able to deduct points for untyped assignments.

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