Shakopee district is cautious with technology plans

  • Article by: ERIN ADLER , Star Tribune
  • Updated: May 28, 2013 - 3:46 PM

The Shakopee district recently pushed back plans to put iPads in the hands of every sixth-grader from next year to 2014-15. They want more data and time to evaluate multiple devices, not just iPads.

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Students in Jennifer Brophy’s seventh-grade science class use iPads to take a test at Shakopee East Junior High School.

Photo: Erin Adler, Star Tribune

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As more Minnesota districts put tablets in the hands of every student, the Shakopee district isn’t jumping on the bandwagon — or the iPad cart — anytime soon.

This month, the school board voted to move the district’s first 1:1 device pilot program — meaning each student gets their own device, typically an iPad — initially planned for the Pearson Sixth Grade Center for next year, to 2014-15.

That means the soonest the entire district might implement 1:1 technology is in 2015-16, if at all.

But being cautious suits the district fine, said Board Member Mary Romansky, and it’s betting it will benefit teachers and students in the long run.

“The reason we delayed it a year was we wanted to make sure we had the right instrument, the right technology, for the students, and to see how other districts are doing,” said Romansky.

Though there was disappointment, the extra year will give teachers time to learn to teach with tablets, said Dave Orlowsky, principal at Pearson, because all sixth-grade teachers will get their own iPad next year.

In addition, “This year gives us a chance to really evaluate multiple devices,” said Orlowsky.

Though schools are saturated with Apple products, it’s valuable for students to be able to use multiple kinds of devices, said Superintendent Rod Thompson.

“We’ve watched a lot of our colleagues out there making $5 million-dollar-plus decisions,” said Superintendent Rod Thompson. “What we’ve learned … is that our students have to be able to use any platform when they graduate.”

Thus, Shakopee will bring in several hundred Google Chromebooks next year, in addition to 370 iPads currently in the district. Currently, only certain teachers have iPads, and there were four classroom sets district-wide last year, Orlowsky said. They also have several hundred laptops, said Thompson.

They haven’t decided yet whether the 600 Pearson students will get iPads, Chromebooks, Windows 8 tablets or another device in 2014-15 — but most likely, it will be a mix, Thompson said.

Tablets for all?

Many south metro districts either have 1:1 technology already or are in the process of implementing it to a degree. The Farmington district leased iPads for each of its 6,700 students this year, and Northfield will be 1:1 next year. Other districts, like West St. Paul-Mendota Heights-Eagan, have piloted iPads at certain schools.

Lakeville has about 2,400 student iPads, some in 1:1 settings and others on portable carts.

But Shakopee wants to see data on how tablets impact learning first, said Thompson.

“Right now, everything we do has to be data-driven,” he said.

That’s why the district recently hired Orlowsky as its new data administrator, he said. It will be his job to “help us do the legwork behind the research,” Thompson said, including determining how to measure the four technology goals the district has identified.

Some data will come from the Pearson pilot, but Shakopee’s wait-and-see approach means it also can learn from other districts, said Thompson.

“If you look at all the districts that jumped on the iPad pilots, there should be a lot of learning we’ll have from them,” he said.

No ‘dearth of technology’

The district isn’t lacking technology, said Orlowsky, citing smartboards and projection technology in every sixth-grade classroom. Other teachers use “clickers,” letting students respond to questions instantly. There also are “pockets of teachers” experimenting with other technology, he said.

And the district has 3,000 desktop computers, said Thompson.

“There’s not a dearth of technology,” Romansky said. “We’re just not implementing 1:1. We’re not Farmington.”

Next year, Shakopee will implement a new student data system to track lunch accounts and grades, as well as updating their network. It will be redoing its website, too, said Romansky.

With all of those changes already planned, teachers will need time to adjust, Romansky said.

Jennifer Brophy, a seventh-grade science teacher at East Junior High, has a classroom set of iPads. Her students use them frequently, for note taking, activities and testing, she said.

Though she said she’s enthusiastic about new technology, it’s a lot of work — most nights she puts in three to four hours reformatting her curriculum for iPads.

Brophy said she supports the district’s pace with 1:1 implementation.

Thompson said that “time will tell” if the approach has any downsides.

“At this point, our community is saying that we’re willing to take that risk,” he said.

Romansky said she knows that other districts are moving faster than Shakopee, but doesn’t believe students will be missing out by not having their own tablets.

“Obviously, we’re the unusual ones. People are probably thinking, ‘Why are they waiting so long?’” she said. But, “Every district has to do what they think is best.”

 

Erin Adler • 952-746-3283





 

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