By Clay Coleman
VANDALIA—At the turn of the 19th century, pencils with erasers on them were a taboo subject in schools across the country. Concerned about changing answers, educators argued students would be more deliberate with their work if they couldn’t revise in class. Times have changed since the days of chalkboards and reciting multiplication tables, and now the pencil is making way for an Apple iPad in the hands of students at Van-Far School District this fall.
Funded by an allocation of over $120,000 in federal programs, the district will provide each student with their own Apple iPad at the start of the 2020 – 2021 school year. Educators will also receive a MacBook laptop to interface with the students’ device, and every classroom will have a 65-inch flatscreen Apple TV, which can mirror what’s on either the students’ iPad or teacher’s laptop.
“We saw an opportunity for funding on the federal program side, to support our students and faculty with an aligned technology piece,” said Van-Far Superintendent Tony DeGrave. “So we contacted Apple and had them come here and educate our teachers. I couldn’t be happier with the results.”
Students, pre-K to seniors, will receive the standard Apple iPad, with 10 hours of battery life, Wi-Fi capability for networking throughout the school, and the ability to store classroom work on Apple’s iCloud storage network. Also, the iPad comes with Speak Screen technology, which reads content aloud to those who can’t see it, or who learn better with audio reinforcement.
“Right now, every student in the district will get an iPad,” DeGrave said. “Pre-K through sixth grades, iPads will stay in the classroom at the end of the school day. The older students will be able to take their iPad home and do homework on them.”
But the system isn’t complete unless you have the educational software to go with it. Apple provides over 180,000 applications designed for the educator in mind. With popular applications like GeoGebra Geometry and Molecules by Theodore Gray, teachers can go over lessons and review students’ assignments, all with the touch of a screen.
“We, as a school, need to educate our students on how to function online,” DeGrave said. “Questions like how do you search? Where do you search? Where are the best educational resources out there? In this day and age, those questions must come from the school.”
At the start of the school year, the district will ask parents to provide a $10 insurance fee for accidental breakage. The district will also cap the cost for parents with multiple kids in school.
“With the schoolboards approval, we will be fair about applying an iPad insurance fee to parents,” DeGrave said. “We want to reduce our list of what parents have to pay. With the ability to do and store homework on the iPad, school supplies parents have to pay, should go down.”
“Of course, with any new technology in the classroom, there will always be some uncertainty,” Degrave said about incorporating Apple technology at Van-Far. “Some classes are working just fine. We will not be taking anything away. Ultimately, we are excited about the future.”