GLEN ELLYN – School is back in session and Glenbard Township High School District 87 has officially started the first year of its iPad rollout program.
The 1-to-1 iPad deployment program was approved by the Board of Education in November 2013. Assistant Superintendent for Educational Services Jeffrey Feucht said iPads have been distributed to 2,100 freshmen in addition to several hundred upperclass students enrolled in freshman classes.
The program will require students in freshman core classes to rent an iPad from the district or to bring one from home. The device must meet the requirements set by District 87's instructional technology team.
The 12-month iPad rental fee is $189, including mandatory insurance. An additional $85 fee will cover digital curriculum and applications, bringing the final cost to $274.
Students who purchase and bring their own iPad will not receive technical support from Glenbard staff and will be required to buy a replacement if the device is lost or broken, according to the district website.
Feucht said a "vast majority" of parents are going with the rental plan.
Students will use their iPads to access textbooks, novels, workbooks and assignment materials.
The district chose iPads based on their prevalence and ability to fulfill most of the items on its wish list, including approved use for standardized tests, options for users with special needs and access to necessary applications, according to board documents.
The district will phase in iPads to each freshman class in the future, until every student at Glenbard has one. Feucht said if the deployment goes well this year, the timeline could be accelerated.
The district spent two years researching other school districts that use devices in the classroom. The iPad deployment came from the district's Instructional Technology Strategic Plan, which sought to put devices in the hands of students.
Feucht said the district benefited from looking at what other districts have done and seeing what works and what doesn't.
"The real thing is, we're not on the leading edge of this," he said.
The district launched a pilot program last year in a few classrooms, which ultimately helped fix potential unforeseen problems.
"We really spent the better part of a year strengthening the infrastructure around that," said Glenbard East High School Principal Josh Chambers.
One example Chambers gave involved the home economics room. District staff didn't expect to have any issues with the room, but learned that microwave ovens can disrupt the wireless Internet signal, which resulted in the school bolstering Internet coverage in that area.
The student rollout began two weeks ago, and included an orientation with a two-hour training session about how to use the iPads, which featured technical advice and app instructions.
Feucht said the orientation was held in order to avoid having the kids have to learn how to use the iPad on the first day of school.
Chambers said the student deployment process was a "pretty massive undertaking," and that the orientation went really well, with a good turnout and responsive behavior from students. There are still some who have not gotten their iPads, which Chambers said district staff are addressing.
"We've still got a few to catch up on this week," he said.
Teachers received the iPads earlier than the students – last school year.
"What we did find essential was professional development," Feucht said.
Teachers went through intense training sessions to ensure they could use them properly and could get the most out of them in the classroom.
"We're hoping to see a real impact on student learning," he said.
Chambers said devices are becoming ubiquitous, and it's a benefit for the students to be knowledgeable in technology use. But school has only been in session for a week, and he knows things could be rough.
"We're early," he said. "We know there's going to be bumps along the way."