District: iPad initiative’s first year was encouraging

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Beaufort County School District officials say that thousands of tablet computers distributed to middle and high schools have increased student engagement in learning and familiarized students with mobile technology that they will use in college and in their careers.

The results have been so encouraging that district officials plan to expand the initiative next school year.

“Student engagement is critical to student achievement,” Chief Instructional Services Officer Dereck Rhoads said. “The more engaged students are, the more they can learn.  It’s important that we prepare students with 21st Century skills, and part of that means giving them access to the computer hardware and software tools needed to develop and master those skills.  This is about using real-world tools to solve real-world problems.”

A total of 7,584 iPad tablet computers were purchased at $379 apiece as part of the initiative, with most deployed in core classes in grades 6-9: math, science, social studies and English language arts.

Chrissy Robinson, the district’s Director of Educational Technology, told board members that 92 percent of students using iPads reported that they had used the computers to complete web-based research.  Ninety percent had worked on collaborative projects with other students.

The positive results from the initiative’s first year have prompted district officials to expand it next year by purchasing enough iPads so that all middle school students can have iPads assigned to them for the entire instructional day rather than picking up the units and returning them after each class.  The 1-to-1 approach was piloted successfully this school year at Lady’s Island Middle School, Robinson said, and students at Whale Branch Early College High School are assigned their own iPads that they can take home each night.