While teachers in some inner-city schools struggle to get supplies for their students, sometimes buying books, paper and pens themselves, the pupils at tony Manhattan Beach Middle School will each get an iPad as part of the educational experience there this fall.
About 75 percent of the kids will bring their own Apple tablets to class as part of the Manhattan Beach Unified School District's expanding "1:1 iPad Program" that suggests all kids at the school, as well as all the district's fifth graders, obtain the devices for learning starting in fall.
In a letter to parents, the district states:
One of the reasons we chose iPads is that students, even if they have never used one before, are very quick to learn. It is an extraordinarily intuitive device. We will help students learn how to use e-Backpack (our system for exchanging assignments with teachers), how to use note-taking Apps, how to use cloud storage, how to use Edmodo, which allows students and teachers to communicate, and how to use some of the other basic Apps. We will also address Internet safety issues in class.
The iPads will allow the middle schoolers to read the likes of Tom Sawyer via eBook and lighten their real backback loads, says Carolyn Seaton, executive director of educational services at the district.
She told the Weekly:
Eventually our hope is that when true eBooks come out for texts, they will be interactive, where there is embedded video and links for vocabulary where you hear the word defined. A possible ramification is that we will vastly reduce backpack weight and maybe the need for backpacks altogether.
The devices were already integrated into one grade at each of the district's five elementary schools during the last academic year. That pilot program is now a permanent fixture for fifth graders so they can prepare for the iPad curriculum at the middle school, Seaton said.
Although the cost of the program's expansion to Manhattan Beach Middle School is said to be about $400,000, the district states that donations and grants, including money from Chevron, which has a neighboring refinery, will cover all the costs.
Nice deal for a town where the median household income is said to be about $107,000 a year -- more than in Beverly Hills.
Karl Kurz, president of the local teacher's union, which is fighting for a raise as we speak, told the Weekly the money would be better spent on teachers:
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You should put money behind highly qualified teachers and retaining them.
Kurz argues that the program will add to educators' burden by turning them into guinea pigs in an effort to figure out how to integrate the iPads into the curriculum. He adds that students will have to be closely supervised lest they web surf, he says, "off-topic."
And, he argues, the district isn't calculating the cost of wi-fi, system maintenance and tech repair, which he says could run into the millions, as part of its tally for the program.
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Seaton is undeterred.
She says now is the time for kids to use iPads because they're already swimming in a digital ocean:
Students are wired, most of them, and they find it quite simple to use. We see students helping each other and the teacher becoming more of a facilitator. The information that's out there is phenomenal and there's no way any one teacher can know everthing about any one discipline. Giving students this technology means it's really an exciting time.