Official: iPads keep students current
A senior administrator told the Rochester School Board Tuesday that a plan to equip every student with an iPad tablet over a three-year period was also an effort to keep education relevant to students.
"Kids didn't grow up with encyclopedias on the shelf. When they look at the textbooks that are 10 years old, they don't see the relevance to them," said Sarah Dudas, the district's technology coordinator. "They need to look online to see if its still current information. It's a different mindset."
Dudas' comments came in response to questions from Rochester board members as they were presented for the first time with a $10 million technology plan that would put a mobile device in the hands of all of the district's 16,000 students by 2015.
Board members questioned district officials about the program's ongoing costs, how the district planned to measure their effectiveness in terms of student achievement, and the potential savings that might be gained by going paperless and moving away from hardcover textbooks.
"How are we assessing (whether the devices) are actually helping our students learn more?" asked board member Anne Becker.
The plan still has a ways to go before the district can begin purchasing iPads in 2013. It must gain the approval of the Rochester board and also the Minnesota Department of Education. But it does not need voter approval in the form of a referendum. Board members mostly used Tuesday's meeting to ask questions. No one present spoke directly against the plan.
This is not the first time the district has sought authority to levy district property owners to refurbish and replace outdated technology. The funding mechanism has been used on four previous occasions in twelves years.
But the inclusion of iPads in the mix has made the current proposal more expensive. For instance, in 2010, the last time the enacted a three-year cycle of technology upgrades, the annual property tax levy to pay off the debt amounted to $1 million. Under the plan presented Tuesday, the sum would rise to $3.9 million.