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iPad, laptop tryouts seen as steps toward a digital bookbag at NH schools

Union Leader Correspondent

September 24. 2012 10:18PM
Fall Mountain Regional High School student Sara Fernette learns how to use an iPad during an Apple computer tutorial on the device in the school library. Fernette?s web development class is part of an iPad pilot test at the school. Meghan Pierce (MEGHAN PIERCE PHOTO)
T hough some school districts in the state are struggling with funding, including the city of Manchester, a growing national education trend to get a tablet or laptop into the hands of every student is cropping up in many New Hampshire school districts.

'This is out of necessity and it's also the next stage of technology,' Keene School District SAU 29 Director of Technology Mustafa 'Mo' Zwebti said.

Recently, the Keene School Board unanimously approved a plan to replace about 275 teachers' desktop computers with iPads and to install Apple TVs and projectors in each classroom.

The $435,000 plan also funds a one-to-one pilot program at Keene High School in which some science class students also would be issued iPads. In total, 300 iPads are to be purchased.

Zwebti said it is possible to pay for the iPads with the money saved by purchasing online curriculum as opposed to textbooks, which can cost $80 to $100 each.

'It's not only cheaper; it's so much more effective. They can change it on the fly - a science subject change, geography changes, offer you a color picture,' Zwebti said. 'I know it's the way to go. Not just economically; it makes learning more exciting.'

Holding up an iPad and a Lenovo notebook computer, Fall Mountain Regional High School Technology Director Lynne Phillips said: 'This right here is going to replace the book bag someday.'

The pilot test at the high school started in the second semester of the last school year. The purchase of 24 of each device for the test was funded through a federal No Child Left Behind grant. In October, the school district plans to evaluate each device and choose one, then present the one-to-one initiative program to voters in March.

'We're going to get this device into the laps of every student,' said Phillips, who noted parents in the school district have been very supportive.

Debra Livingston, superintendent of schools for SAU 60 Fall Mountain Regional School District, said the program is about creating opportunity.

'Utilizing technology is not as much about the actual iPad or notebook as it is about creating opportunities for students to learn about content from around the world at the moment when they are most inspired,' she said.


The Jaffrey-Rindge Cooperative School District is also rolling out a one-to-one pilot program this fall.

The plan is for all seventh-graders at Jaffrey-Rindge Middle School to have an iPad, said Curriculum and Instruction Director Greg Naudascher.

Another 85 devices are going into Conant High School classrooms for a one-to-one pilot test. Conant High School Principal John Barth said students can collaborate on projects, participate in class discussion and ask questions any time, he said.

'I see students more engaged and learning and excited,' he said. 'It's a different type of interaction with the teacher. It doesn't have to be in the classroom; it can be at home, it can be at different times in the school day.'

He said the iPads have already played a key role in a civics class, with students following the presidential election through online news coverage.

The school district purchased about 280 iPads for students and some teachers from Apple for about $550 each.

It's a very affordable way to go, IT Director Kevin Verratti said.

Jaffrey-Rindge Middle School Principal Ryan Earley said students are familiar with the technology in terms of games and communication, but in school the students will be learning the real-world applications.

'This is the world they know. Their brains are set up for that,' Earley said.

Naudascher said he is not sure if online curriculum will fully replace textbooks - at least not in the near future - because some students lack high-speed internet access at home.

'That poses a challenge. You go home and you need a book,' Naudascher said.

The school district paid for the pilot test with surplus funds. School officials plan to evaluate the use and move forward with a one-to-one initiative for seventh grade and up.

'There is so much potential when every child has one in their hands,' Naudascher said. 'It really gives students a whole new set of tools.'

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