Stevenson supplying iPads for incoming students
Doug Kahler and SmartBar manager Nancy Hudson with some iPads at the SmartBar at Stevenson H.S. Tuesday in Lincolnshire. | Joel Lerner~Sun-Times Media
Updated: September 10, 2012 6:15AM
This fall, about 800 Stevenson High School students will be downloading songs and games, uploading photos and doing types of homework that they have never done before, all on their school issued Apple iPads.
Next spring, Stevenson officials will be hoping to get all 800 of them back, undamaged, with nothing on the tablets that could get the district in trouble.
“Obviously, some crucial conversations will be happening,” which SHS director of information services Doug Kahler said he hoped would help the first round of students participating in the school’s new tablet program to treat their new textbooks/toys with great care.
When school reopens Aug. 23, every Patriot in every section for three courses will receive a fresh-from-the-box “iPad,” the third-generation and latest tablet from Apple, which debuted the product with the “iPad 1” and “iPad 2.” The machines will be put to use in Spanish 2, AP Music Theory and Anatomy and Physiology; Kahler said officials chose those classes based on the usefulness the tablets would offer, and on the instructors’ willingness to rework their curriculum to incorporate a new tool.
The change is part of the Stevenson Mobile Academic Real-Time Technology program, the school’s next step in its immersion into the pool of technology. In recent years, Stevenson had already put about 700 iPad 1 and 2s into scattered use, many for teachers, but more than doubled its ownership for this fall.
Kahler said tablets of this sort were not a lock as the future of education, but that they merited a large experiment.
“It’s not necessarily a certainty,” Kahler said. “The iPad itself is just a tool. The faculty, they’re the superstars who make things happen.”
But, at the School Board’s July 16 meeting, Kahler said he was confident that machines like these have a large place in the present of education.
“Doug, what’s your gut feeling on the whole iPad thing?” board member David Weisberg asked. “Are you a believer?”
Kahler began his answer with a “Yes,” then launched into a detailed explanation of all the reasons why he believed tablets belonged in the classrooms. Weisberg had to cut him off.
“So, you’re a believer?” he asked again.
“Yes, I’m a believer,” Kahler answered.
Using the tablets, students will be able to hear recordings of themselves speaking Spanish, then compare their pronunciations to recordings of native speakers; they will have similar guides for properly played musical notes; and they will watch computer models of muscles and skeletons in motion. As more textbooks become available online and new innovations come to software, the machines’ usefulness will almost certainly explode.
As will the other, less-educational activities teenagers can partake of with them.
Each Patriot that receives the new iPad will also get their own iTunes account for downloading music, videos and games, and all will take them home. When using the school’s internet connections, students will be bound by the school’s blocking programs, which outlaw Facebook and the illegal downloading sites — but away from the building, they will have free reign to use the school’s property for whatever purpose they choose.
Kahler said violations committed on an iPad will be dealt with according to the school’s existing disciplinary guidelines.
“Internet pornography isn’t any different than if somebody brings an inappropriate magazine into their locker,” he said.
Kahler was also confident that the school’s liability would not be at risk if students engage in criminal activity through their iPADS. Earlier this year, a still-undisclosed number of Patriots received discipline for selling and buying marijuana through text messaging on privately owned mobile phones — and every year, new stories of cyber-bullied children’s woes make headlines.
Far more likely, though, is the near-inevitable morning when a student will walk into Kahler’s office with a cracked screen, a drowned machine…or an empty backpack where the tablet used to be. Kahler said SHS is keeping a stockpile of matching iPads on hand for replacements; he added that in its contract with Apple, he can replace a damaged unit with a new one for $49, up to twice per student. But the fee for a lost or stolen unit is $250.
And, knowing that plenty of tech-savvy digital natives will still have questions about how to use one of the most advanced pieces of technology Apple offers, the school is building a “SMARTbar” in the link between the campus’s two main buildings to serve as a help station. Each student that takes one home will also sit through instructional sessions.
“How to care for and feed your iPad,” Kahler joked. “We don’t want the students not to be able to do their work, just because life happens.”