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1,600 iPads for Mercer Island School District students next year

For some Mercer Island students, this spring just got a lot more high tech.

By the fall, all students in eighth grade through high school will have an iPad, courtesy of the Mercer Island School District.

The new program, called 1:1 iPad Program, debuts this spring and will be in full effect by the beginning of the next school year.

The district has been working toward this point for the last two years, after running a pilot program with students that found the devices help students and teachers. Each iPad comes with a list of available applications, already paid for by the district. Students can pick and choose from the list as to which suit their needs.

“We have been piloting iPads over the last two years, and we have found that they meet the needs of students and teachers with application availability, portability and engagement,” said a letter to families from the district. “No tool is going to be perfect, but the iPad currently meets our needs and there is a growing community of schools that are already implementing 1:1’s so we can learn from and with their staff. As emerging technology becomes available, we will select the tool which most effectively meets the needs of students.”

Jennifer Wright, the executive directory of learning and technology services for the district, said this program is different than others because it’s truly one to one.

“The biggest difference is it’s truly 1:1,” she said. “The other laptop carts and desktops, that’s not your computer to have. This is truly a personal device they can use 24/7. That’s the biggest difference.”

The funding for the new program comes from the district’s technology levy. All told, the program will spend around $700,000 of the levy funds, but Wright said just half has been spent since only some students will get iPads this spring. The total order is for 1,600 devices.

High school students in 10th and 11th grade will receive their iPads April 11-12 after spring break, while the freshman and eighth graders will get theirs in August.

The district is planning ongoing professional development with teachers at both Islander Middle School and MIHS to help them not only learn the most effective ways to use the devices, but also to offer support.

Parents who already have iPads for their child’s use at home can opt out of the program, but they have to be willing to pay for the apps which are available on the district devices. The district said in it’s Frequently Asked Questions about the program that one of the program’s goals is to provide a consistent digital platform to both students and teachers.

Some of the 78 apps that will be available include: 3D Brain, which models the human brain, Constitution for iPad, an app that is like flashcards to help with studying, Daily Grammar which helps with grammar lessons, KCLS which allows access to the King County Library System, as well as Nature Human Genome which looks at genetics.

Each device also includes a management tool which will allow the district to track the location of the iPad, monitor the amount of free and used memory, push messages and transmit documents and keep a record of how long since the device has reported to the management system, which will be used if the device is ever lost or stolen. The management system will not be able to read data about apps or usage, control the camera or see data stored on the device.

Wright said the Shoreline School District has a similar program, which started with laptops but is slowly converting to using iPads. She said Shoreline has had a 1:1 laptop program for all students in 7-12 grades for around the last five years, but last year moved a high school to using iPads and another this year.

“They are the closest in both volume and size to us,” said Wright. “It’s a wonderful program.”

To learn more visit the MISD website at www.mercerislandschools.org.

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