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Niklaus pushes for school iPads in Detroit Lakes

Could students in the Detroit Lakes School District soon be sporting their own iPads?

If Education Director Lowell Niklaus has anything to say about it, yes.

At Monday night's school board meeting, Niklaus presented what he calls a One to One Initiative.

"The whole concept is to put mobile computing devices in the hands of students," said Niklaus, who has been studying the idea for about a year. "It's something that's starting to occur across the state of Minnesota, across the country and it's snowballing very, very rapidly."

Niklaus says in order for students to succeed in a changing world, the system needs to change as well, and that includes the way teachers teach and the way students learn.

Niklaus says he will be working with the school board's technology committee to present a plan at April's board meeting that could include thee options for the 2012-2013 school year: providing iPads to every student in one grade (grade to be determined), provide them to every student in two grades or to provide the devices to every student in one grade and every teacher in the district as a way of preparing them for the digital road ahead.

The idea behind the One to One Initiative would be for the students included in the pilot program to use the iPads both in and outside of school, meaning they take them home every night.

Niklaus mentioned such practices "flipping the classroom," where teachers record their lesson, students review it at home and then do their actual homework in the classroom.

He says although the iPads can be handy for students accessing homework anywhere, including to and from sporting events, internet isn't even always necessary because so much can be downloaded on the device.

He also cited several districts within Minnesota that are engaging in the initiative, including Little Falls, which started out providing iPads to all of its fifth graders and now has expanded that to 1,700 additional students this fall.

He says Pelican Rapids, Minnetonka, and several other districts are also jumping on board.

"Many of them report improved academic performance, higher test scores, increased student and teacher engagement, fewer disciplinary issues, fewer drop out rates, increased graduation rates, increased percentage of students going to college, better attendance rates, students able to write more and better and improved interpersonal skills because there's so much collaboration that occurs in communication with these types of things," said Niklaus, who also added the district would get back some of the money spent on a 75 percent reduction in paper costs.

Niklaus says if the district is going to act on this idea, it must do so quickly so that teachers can begin training on the iPads because he stresses that the idea isn't about the devices, but it's about the learning that can come with it as students are provided with 21st century skills.

"We need to educate students for their future, not their past," said Niklaus, "these kids live in a digital world and that's not going away."