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Marion buys iPads for high school

BY Carolyn Muyskens - cmuyskens@chronicle-tribune.com

Every Marion High School student will have a school-issued iPad of his or her own come the fall.

The Marion Community Schools Board of Trustees approved a more than $500,000, 4-year lease with Apple Tuesday to acquire 1,200 sixth generation iPads.

The school corporation rolled out iPads for grades K-8 during the 2018-2019 school year. K-8 students can only use their iPads in the classroom, however. Unlike the younger students, Marion high schoolers will be able to take their iPads home.

Teachers at Marion High School have had iPads and Macbooks for the last two years, and a few classrooms have been piloting the use of iPads in daily lessons.

Art teacher Tashema Davis, one of the pilot teachers, said the iPads have expanded artistic possibilities for her students. She has students record voice-overs for class presentations to ease public speaking fears and said some students find their niche in digital designing rather than traditional mediums like sculpture and painting.

“I think the more research we do and the more we become comfortable with it as educators, the more the students are willing to learn and do things. We’re finding more ways to use technology,” Davis said.

She said her classroom has gone totally paperless as a result.

“I don’t pass out any paper except for my finals this year, so everything is done on the iPad,” Davis said.

Math teacher Angela Sellers said familiarizing students with technology now helps them succeed in college and careers.

“The students who come back from college … they’re telling me, ‘Mrs. Sellers you cannot believe how much you have to do on the Internet and how much I have to turn in through these systems online,’” Sellers explained.

Teachers have controls over student devices that allow them to lock students into a lesson or app and prevent students from browsing online or accessing social media during class.

Chief Technology Officer Scott Hoeksema said parents will have similar controls at home.

“(There’s) a tool that allows a teacher or parent to kind of set the parameters on what students can be doing and what they can be utilizing,” Hoeksema said.

Marion will offer guidance and training for parents over the summer and into the school year about the management tools they can use with their children’s devices, Hoeksema said.

School board members voted unanimously for the purchase, with Board member Dana Gault calling the investment “priceless.”

Board member Serafina Salamo said she had reservations but came around to the proposal.

“Ultimately we have to carve out a place in our budget, technology is just going to be something that we have to deal with, whatever devices we choose. That’s the way society is going, period. It’s integrated into our lives at such a high level that it becomes hard to function without it, whether it’s education or your job,” Salamo said.

Board member Aaron Vermilion expressed some concern that not all teachers would use the iPads in the classroom.

“My concern is that you guys (pilot teachers) are way ahead. There’s still probably a lot of teachers that aren’t using them at all. So we’re adding another 1,200 iPads, are they gonna be fully used or not?” Vermilion asked.

Davis said teachers have been training with the iPads throughout the year and the staff works together on ways to integrate technology into their classrooms.

“The kids are already using technology, so if we as educators can meet them where they are and make it fun again, then I feel like it’s a win-win,” Davis said.