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iPads at North Shore Schools

Board of Education gets an update

The North Shore Board of Education met at Glenwood Landing Elementary School last week to discuss several policies and see a presentation of how the newly implemented iPads are currently being used in the classrooms and what the expectation is for future use.

Director of Technology Elliot Kaye presented the details to the board on what it took to bring the iPads to the schools, which grades are using them, which curriculum apps and security apps are used on the devices and when the other classes will get them.

He said using the iPads required building strong infrastructure throughout the district for wireless capacity, so now all schools are fully equipped with strong signals. The devices are managed centrally and security programs have been installed.

 Currently the iPads are being used in the sixth grade, ninth grade experience and 10th grade classrooms; the rest of the middle school and high school teachers will have them in January of next year. Kaye said parent meetings and trainings were held before giving the students the devices and contracts had to be signed by both parents and students agreeing to acceptable use.

Kaye demonstrated some of the apps being used for instruction and how having the interactive information could enhance instruction. In some instances, the cost of eBooks is cheaper than hardcover books. He said while there is a learning curve, use of the devices seem to enhance learning. One of the goals is to teach responsible social networking, since use of the devices is completely monitored by the teachers.

“I think you are on the right track but I would like to see an assessment of the learning,” said Trustee Dr. Herman Berliner.

Superintendent Dr. Edward Melnick said that the intent is to do a formal assessment of how using the iPads impacts the learning; as of now it is too soon to tell.

Trustee Anna Sharkey, who has a child in sixth grade, said she has noticed firsthand the benefits of the devices. She gave an example of her child asking a question about an assignment and receiving an answer from the teacher at 7:30 p.m.

Trustee Amy Beyer mentioned the need for staying on top of faculty training, since it’s likely that the kids will become more adept at using them than their teachers.

Several trustees touched on the importance of keeping kids engaged and adapting to the shift in technological advances. Assistant Superintendent for Instruction Rob Chlebicki said it is “their world” so it’s important to change teaching styles and tools accordingly.

One resident asked if the iPads have the capability of peer-to-peer contact that is not monitored; it was explained that cameras have been disabled, students and teachers both had to sign appropriate use waivers and that parents are copied on all emails.

A parent who of an elementary school student raised some concerns about the use of the iPads. “I just hope we don’t get caught up in all the bells and whistles. Let’s not forget that it’s a tool – a pretty tool.”

The board also discussed several policies, including policy 1500 pertaining to public use of school facilities. Trustee Dr. Igor Webb felt that while the policy itself is appropriate, some parts might need some “rethinking” regarding prohibited use and the conditions for use. President Carolyn Genovesi said the “narrow policy is protecting us” and it was decided to remain as is for the time being. A complete list and description of policies can be found on the district website. Another discussion revolved around the budget philosophy and how to best approach the tough decisions that will be made next year. Budget discussions will begin in January.