Reporting Colin Smith
FARMINGTON, Minn. (WCCO) – Backpack? Check. Lunch? Check. iPad?
Apple’s tablet will soon be an everyday necessity for students in Farmington schools. By the end of the school year, the district will provide an iPad2 or iPad Mini to all of its 7,330 students and their teachers.
“The district is really interested in creating personalized and customized instruction for students,” said Jim Skelly, Communications and Marketing Coordinator for Farmington Area Public Schools. “We want to help them advance at their own speed and using tablet devices is the platform to make that happen.”
iPads for students from kindergarten through 3rd grade will remain at school, while those in grades 4 through 12 will be able to take the tablets home, with the option of purchasing insurance annual coverage for $28.
The initiative will cost $125 per student, or approximately $915,000, representing about 1.5 percent of the district’s capital budget. Funding does not come from Farmington’s general operating budget that is used for teacher salaries.
The district hopes iPads might ultimately prove cost-effective, cutting down on paper usage and providing an easier method for updating textbooks.
“(Education Secretary) Arne Duncan has called for schools across the country to move to this digital learning environment,” Skelly said. “We’re making 22 million paper copies per year and if we can reduce that number by relying on digital tools, those are funds that can be used to benefit the overall educational program.”
Students at Farmington High School will receive their tablets next week as part of iPad Family Engagement Nights on Dec. 18-20.
Farmington is believed to be the largest district in Minnesota to adopt iPads for all students. Earlier this year, Barnesville Schools in western Minnesota distributed tablets to its 900 students.
In Carver County’s Watertown-Mayer Schools, parents reportedly gave positive reviews to the district’s iPad program, implemented earlier this year. But while generally satisfied, parents showed concern over how often the tablets were used to play games, particularly among middle school students.