iPads for everyone in District 192

Farmington School District intends to issue an iPad to all students

by Jennifer Chick
Sun Thisweek

Farmington students are beginning a new learning adventure as the district rolls out a program to issue iPads to every student.

Sofi Chadwick, a 10th-grade student at Farmington High School, investigates her new iPad Wednesday night. All 1,848 Farmington High School students received iPads during a three-night distribution process last week. By this spring, Farmington Area Public Schools intends to place an iPad in the hands of each student in the district to provide customized learning for all students. Farmington is the largest district in Minnesota to attempt this one-to-one technology program. Photo by Jennifer Chick

Sofi Chadwick, a 10th-grade student at Farmington High School, investigates her new iPad Wednesday night. All 1,848 Farmington High School students received iPads during a three-night distribution process last week. By this spring, Farmington Area Public Schools intends to place an iPad in the hands of each student in the district to provide customized learning for all students. Farmington is the largest district in Minnesota to attempt this one-to-one technology program. Photo by Jennifer Chick

The Farmington School District has made it a priority to purchase an iPad for every student in its 6,700-student district as part of a customized learning program. According to school officials, the district is the largest in Minnesota to attempt a one-to-one program for every student. And last week, the district began distributing those iPads to its 1,848 high school students.

“Our intent is to open the doors for students where the learning experience is fully customizable,” said Charles Duarte, the district’s head of instructional technology. “Since these are personal devices, we can really cater to the needs of each student as compared to laptops.”

The mobility of the iPads, along with a mobile device management system and the ability to easily distribute apps and electronic books that the district endorses, were all factors in Farmington’s decision to lease the iPads for all students.

“It’s trying to create this new system for educating,” said Carl Colmark, the district’s finance director, “the idea being that they have a digital partner who will always be with them.”

Currently, only those students in high school have picked up iPads, which they can take home with them. Each student received an iPad and a Griffin Survivor Case free of charge. Parents had the option to purchase insurance for $28 per device. If parents did not purchase the highly recommended insurance package, they were responsible for the full replacement cost in the case of theft, damage or loss.

The iPads will be turned in at the end of the school year. The devices are on a three-year lease, so in the fall, each student will receive the same iPad again. By this spring, the district will have received all the iPads it has leased. Students in fourth through eighth grades might have the ability to take their iPads home, while kindergarten through third-grade students will only use their devices at school.

The iPad fleet consists of iPad 2s and iPad Minis. The iPads work only on Wi-Fi, which the district has in each of its buildings. Also, a mobile device management system allows teachers to make content available over that system, which students can download at school and view later offline at home if they do not have Wi-Fi access at home.

Duarte said the iPads no only make learning exciting for students, but they present an exciting way to teach so they should open the door for differentiated learning opportunities for kids.

“If teachers have good rapport with the kids and are risk takers and like to have fun, it’s going to be an adventure,” said Rick Yonker, who teaches biology at FHS. “It’s fun. It’s going to work as well as the teachers are willing to be flexible.”

Teachers in the district have had their own iPads since August.  Yonker will be using the iPad as a tool to present biology games, conduct research in the middle of class, and supplement discussions on DNA and photosynthesis.

Jacob Kost, left, 12th grade, and Shaye Jenrich, 11th grade, prepare to put Kost’s new iPad into a carrying case last Wednesday night at Farmington High School. Kost was picking up his iPad, which he received as part of the district’s vision to create customized learning for each student. By this spring, Farmington Area Public Schools intends to place an iPad in the hands of each of its 6,700 students to provide customized learning for all students. iPads will be turned in at the end of the school year. Photo by Jennifer Chick

Jacob Kost, left, 12th grade, and Shaye Jenrich, 11th grade, prepare to put Kost’s new iPad into a carrying case last Wednesday night at Farmington High School. Kost was picking up his iPad, which he received as part of the district’s vision to create customized learning for each student. By this spring, Farmington Area Public Schools intends to place an iPad in the hands of each of its 6,700 students to provide customized learning for all students. iPads will be turned in at the end of the school year. Photo by Jennifer Chick

“If you look at the research and people looking at the trends nationally and internationally, this is where it is heading,” he said. “I’m just proud Farmington has taken the lead among metro schools.”

Students also seem excited with the possibilities.
“I think it’s going to be very helpful,” said junior Shaye Jenrich. “I think it’s really going to go far. Some kids might abuse them, but most of us are so excited to do school work on it. … It’s all right there in front of us.”

Senior Jacob Kost is interested to see how it will change the daily classroom life.

Parents like Tony Schackman, whose freshman son, Jon, picked up his iPad last Wednesday night, are concerned how students might use the devices.

“I’m skeptical,” he said. “I’m concerned with the potential abuse of the device.”

He said the iPads allow free access to all that is available on the Internet, and he’s not sure that is what is best for the kids. Duarte said the district has filters in place at the school to keep kids from accessing questionable content, and teachers will be highly vigilant, but he also sees the iPads as a chance to teach responsibility.

“This is a great place to develop what is appropriate for school and in the workplace,” he said.

As students leave high school and head to college or into the workforce, Farmington can help shape how those students can be good digital citizens, he said.

“Our intent is to equip our students with the strategies and skills necessary to know appropriate use,” Duarte said.

The district is also hoping to cut down on the amount of paper used in its buildings once all students receive a device. Parent Kim Sharp thought one of the main reasons the district implemented the iPad strategy was an effort to go green. She just wanted to hear more information about where the district got the money for the program.

“Are they actually going to be for learning or playing?” she asked.

Everyone will be watching, from the School Board to the parents to other districts, as the district rolls this program out for all students.

Tony Shackman looks over the shoulder of his son, Jon, a freshman at Farmington High School, as Jon follows the steps to register his iPad during a family engagement night last Wednesday. All FHS students received an iPad at three distribution nights last week as the district works toward a goal of putting an iPad in the hands of each of its 6,700 students by next spring. Photo by Jennifer Chick

Tony Shackman looks over the shoulder of his son, Jon, a freshman at Farmington High School, as Jon follows the steps to register his iPad during a family engagement night last Wednesday. All FHS students received an iPad at three distribution nights last week as the district works toward a goal of putting an iPad in the hands of each of its 6,700 students by next spring. Photo by Jennifer Chick

  • TAXPAYER28

    I hope they start by down loading the US constitution, The Federalist Papers, and the State of Minnesota Constitution for thorough study.
    I suspect the curricula will be from Marx.

  • TheLip

    The same State of MN Constitution that the right side of the fence tried to amend with their marriage amendment circus. These defenders of the sanctity of marriage that has now cost the taxpayers of this fine state at last report $200,000 to defend the Senate for the shenanigans of the their leader and an underling? Where is the outrage?

  • R. Tolley

    As a taxpayer and resident of the Farmington School district, I find it hard to believe that the entire district is getting iPads to “customize” the educational experience for the students with little or no proof of success. Further, there is nothing in this article that tells us what the impact will be to the educational bottom line.

    What, exactly, does customized curriculum mean? Can you provide examples?
    Will this reduce the cost of texts, media and educational aids? If so, How much?
    Will this improve student standardized test scores? If so, how much?
    Who is responsible for determining the success or failure of this program? What is the criteria for measurement? Is that critera subjective or objective?
    Was there a pilot program? What were the results? Were there any disappointments or failures that were fixed in the upcoming program?

    This article contains no cost info and other than mentioning the fact that thise devices are leased for 3 years. We know nothing of the terms, cost per unit or even a total cost of this 3 year program. Based upon my background in technology and depending upon terms and the cost per unit, this program is costing the district $1.8MM – $2.7MM. What tangible results are we getting in return?

    One fact struck me as an odd inclusion. The “highly recommended” insurance program for $28. Was this for all 3 years or per year? Could you please explain how people who get free or reduced school lunches will be charged? Will there be another program to excuse that cost as well?

    As an Information Technology professional with 30 years experience, I can say that the iPad has had a profound impact on the world of technology. So much so, I have purchased two.
    We use them everyday. They are a newspaper, a book, research mechanism, a cyber store…the uses are endless.

    Since moving to Farmington in 1999, I have observed a less than honest campaign for a new high school followed by a 2+ year delay in construction due to a legal battle between the city and the School Board over the location of the new school. We have no children in this or any other school district. But, as a taxpayer and a citizen of this community I should be able to expect better accountability from the school board and from the “This Week” Editorial board.

    Please answer our questions!

    • J. Limbeck

      I also have many of the same questions as R. Tolley. I have been chastised by parents in the School District implying I should be better informed and just accept that this program is for the “good of all”. It is this kind of thinking that is pushing all of us over the fiscal cliff. Why are students “entitled” to an ipad for which I am paying? When my children needed $100-$200 calculators for their math classes, WE paid for them, not the District. When they needed a laptop or ipad for classes, they paid for them with money they earned by working. An ipad is a school supply. If you want your child to have one, you pay for it! I’m all for technology, but please stop asking me to pay for supplies for which the parents of the students using them should be responsible.

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