District's tablet plan not rock-solid [Reading Eagle, Pa.]
(Reading Eagle (PA) Via Acquire Media NewsEdge) April 24--The question before the Kutztown School Board's curriculum committee was whether to equip eighth-graders with iPad tablet computers.
What emerged Monday night was a discussion about the complexity of education in the fast-paced technological world of the 21st century.
Board member Amy S. Faust raised concerns about the personal and educational impact of technology on students.
Basing her comments on Kutztown's experience with supplying laptops to its high school students, Faust said some parents, including her, are worried about what students access on the Internet, other than their studies.
"You're giving our kids keys to the world with no kind of control," Faust said. "You've made parents' jobs that much harder."
Faust's comments brought a spirited response from Rebecca Beidelman, Kutztown High School principal, who was sitting in the audience.
"Our job as teachers is not to stand up in front of a class and lecture," Beidelman said. "Our job is to create an atmosphere for students to discover the world."
The task of educators is to prepare students for a technologically driven workplace, Beidelman said, and laptops or iPads are nothing more than educational tools.
Kutztown's administration has proposed buying 130 iPads and distributing them to eighth-graders in the fall.
The cost to lease them, depending on the length of the agreement, would be between $25,000 and $32,000. The district would divert funds allocated for purchasing new social studies textbooks to pay for the iPads.
James Brown, middle school principal, said the iPad has software that will allow Kutztown's teachers to write their own textbooks.
Doing so, he said, would save money spent on textbooks and allow teachers to update the material to keep abreast of the latest information.
"This will be the textbook," Brown said, holding up an iPad, which is a little smaller than a magazine.
Faust and other school directors questioned when teachers would write the texts and how much it would cost.
Cindy Meyers, district technology director, said teachers would write the texts during breaks in the school year.
The plan, she said, is to write texts in the core subjects for the first semester during the summer, then write them for the second semester over the Christmas break.
The iPad, Meyers said, is the only tablet computer with software designed specially to create textbooks. It creates a format that allows students to turn the pages, just like a book.
The board raised questions about copyrights and intellectual property laws, but Meyers said there is enough copyright-free material available online to enable teachers to write their own texts. The board is updating its policy on intellectual property.
At the suggestion of Kurt Friehauf, curriculum committee chairman, Brown will have a teacher develop a prototype iPad text and demonstrate it at the board's May 7 meeting at 7:30 p.m. in the high school library.
Contact Ron Devlin: 610-371-5030 or email@example.com.
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