School Board is briefed on one-to-one I-Pads

Helen Westcott shows board member Duane Bodermann how to use an I-Pad. She suggested the board think about getting one for each student and teacher in the future.

After the tense vote of three-two to keep the Elma Elementary Center open for the 2011-12 school year, the remainder of the School Board meeting on March 28 was relatively calm.
One item the students are especially interested in was the report by Helen Westcott, technology coordinator. Since the general fund is where the district needed to cut from the budget, she started off by saying, “Technology funds are from a different fund than general funds.”
Last year the district had been awarded a quarter million dollar grant from Microsoft which could be spent over the next three years. “We’ve spent less than half so far. They are constantly updating what are qualified areas.” Most recently, the school could spend half the funds on hardware and half on software.
Currently the biggest need was staff development. “Our technology is only as good as the people who use it.”
With hardware, she explained that many districts in the area were going to one-to-one laptop initiatives or giving each students a laptop.
Westcott added, “I-Pads were added to eligible hardware.” This made her start thinking about an I-Pad initiative where each student would have an I-Pad. She said Wavery-Shell Rock was going in that direction.
The advantages would be not having hardcover text books but E-Books, which could be programmed with the proper reading material. Notes could also be taken on the I-Pad. Homework could be turned in electronically.
She went on, “Other schools have been very, very excited about what I-Pads are doing for their classrooms. With the E-Book, they can be quickly updated. We could be looking at going paperless.”
Another advantage is how the students work with the I-Pads. “They spark the students. Special Ed. teachers are especially noticing this.”
I-Pads are also about half the price of a laptop.
Her suggestion was to get I-Pads for all the teachers then plan for a one-to-one ration of I-Pads for students.
Board member Karlos McClure asked, “What about note taking at college?” Westcott responded the I-Pad is the note-taker of the future.
The cost at this time is $499 on the low end.She left the board with much to think about for the future of education in the district.
• Other items discussed included the school calendar. First semester for Howard-Winneshiek Community School District will begin August 18. Tom Barnes, secretary of the Fair Board came forward. “We ask that if school starts prior to the end of the Iowa State Fair you would give consideration to the kids involved in FFA and 4-H.” The Fair takes place August 11-21. Barnes said the board has been supportive in the past.
Supt. Dianne Anderson said many teachers expressed the desire of having several three day weekends planned into the calendar.
School would end May 17 with snow days to be made up after that date. The calendar was accepted by the board.
• Field trips were approved, as was a student teaching contract with Luther College.
• Before work can begin on the K-8 driveway (which is also from a different fund), it needs surveyed. That will be done so bids can be let in May.
The next meeting is April 7 when the proposed 2011-12 budget hearing will take place. The next regular board meeting will be April 26 at the Lime Springs-Chester Elementary.

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