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Frazee students will have iPads

Joining in the one-to-one technology movement, Frazee-Vergas Schools is working toward getting iPads in the hands of students and teachers.

A technology committee has been meeting to discuss options, try out a few iPads and experience the opportunities they could provide to teachers and students.

Technology Director Gretchen Norby said that school should be "more than a four-wall institution," and these iPads can provide that.

Kids are already using technology on a very regular basis, so this would use it for educational purposes and hopefully get students more intrigued with learning.

There had been discussion of getting laptops for students in the past, but Norby said the iPads would make more sense because of the mobility, battery life and less vulnerability to damage.

Right now the plan is to start out by outfitting fifth, sixth and ninth graders with the iPads next fall. Before then, possibly this spring, the teachers that will be using the iPads would receive them and get training on them.

On Wednesday, teachers Jim Jacobson and Tavia Schumacher gave school board members examples of the programs they can use for their classrooms. For instance, there is a program where teachers can give practice tests or supplements, show the student step-by-step how to figure the problem out, including an audio of them giving directions for the problem.

Also, teachers wouldn't be getting rid of textbooks necessarily, but they could use the iPads to create their own textbooks for kids to review.

A larger school district in the state had their teachers write their own curriculum for a certain subject and was able to use that throughout the grade, saving the district a significant amount of money for textbooks for that particular subject.

"Whatever you think you can do, there are a hundred more things than you know," Jacobson said.

For those adults who fear that children would just be parked in front of a computer, essentially, instead of learning reading, writing and other textbook education pieces, the technology committee assures that these will not take the place of classroom and textbook learning.

"Technology is not the end all, it's a tool," Norby said.

Likely being phased in over three years, kids in grades five or six and up would get the iPads.

There are also restrictions on the iPads that Norby can control, like not allowing kids to be able to download anything onto the iPad. This means kids wouldn't be able to download games and play in class. Or they wouldn't be able to access Facebook on the iPads.

Norby said the iPads can actually encourage collaborative learning too, which is used throughout life, whether it's in high school, college or on the job.

Board member Matt Bauer asked what was planned for the students who don't happen to have Internet access at their homes and would be unable to do any extras outside of school because of that.

Jacobson said that's all in how teachers use the devices. He said that teachers can plan ahead and have students download certain lessons or activities while they have the Internet access at the school. Once it's downloaded, they can then watch the videos or whatever is needed because they will already be embedded on the iPad.

"It can be made to be a small issue," he said of students that wouldn't be able to access Internet at home.

With this many students and teachers eventually having iPads, the board questioned if the district will need to hire another technology person.

Superintendent Chuck Cheney said that the district has already been planning to hire a new employee to work in the Media Center, and that person would be expected to offer support to the technology department as well.

"Whether we want it not, this is the way it's going to go or we'll fall behind," board member Tammie Nunn said of the need for the technology upgrade.

Follow Pippi Mayfield on Twitter at @PippiMayfield.