Setting kids up for success

School board members Scott Fortune and James Kitchen check out the new computers to be purchased for grades 7-12 for 2013-14

School board members Scott Fortune and James Kitchen check out the new computers to be purchased for grades 7-12 for 2013-14

By Marcie Klomp

Hoots and hollers and clapping followed the Howard-Winneshiek School Board’s decision to go with a MacBook Air computer for all students in sixth through 12th grade for the 2013-14 school year. This will fulfill the 1:1 initiative goal the district set last year.

In 2012-13, students in sixth through eighth grade were given iPads. Those devices will be moved to the elementary level.

The 1:1 initiative will help all students be tech savvy, and it should help them on their path to the job market.

Before the vote on April 22, High School Principal Tim Felderman described the steps taken to give his final recommendation about the MacBook Air. He explained he had a “gold star” group of students, teachers, technology personnel and a board member on the committee.

“If I would define my vision, it is to provide opportunities across our curriculum that challenge our students.”

Felderman added the experience the students would get from their computers would help “provide success after high school.”

Adult members of the committee (Doug Berg, Steve Anderson, Brenda Lentz, Libby Schwade, Heather Klenke and Harold Jensen), along with student members (Brandon Mayer, Mike Bronner, Lexie Henry, Hunter Slifka, Jake Roelofs, Kim Weigel, Michael Ollendick, Hunter Praska, Skye Meinecke, Shane Trautsch, Michaela Wiltgen, Zack Vandervort, Isaac Passmore and Megan Schrage) investigated pros and cons of Chrome, iPads, PC-based devices and MacBooks.

“We talked to a Milwaukee school district and surveyed students and staff. A straw poll was taken at one of the last meetings.” There was one vote for MacBook Pro and the rest were for MacBook Air.

Felderman added Apple had told the group there was still time for training and getting ready before the start of school this fall.

He went on to say there was much more that needed to be done, such as setting policies, communicating with students and parents and insurance.

Supt. John Carver looked at a few of the student committee members saying, “We are doing this for you guys and not for us.”

Preliminary numbers for the 1:1 initiative are at about $1 million. That relates to about $850 for the students’ 11-inch unit. Carver suggested leasing for four years. “Number one, we know that in four years we would be able to get new units, plus we can spread the payments out over four years.”

He said it before and said it again at the meeting that he would like to see hotspots on buses, so students can get Internet access to and from school. This would especially beneficial for the students who live in the far corners of the district.

School board member Scott Fortune wondered if Mac was the best way to go. He said his business did not work well with Macs. “Is this the right technology for our kids?” Some of the kids spoke up to explain many of the programs they are using are already associated with Apple, and it would be harder to learn a new computer system.

Due to the technology-minded school board, each student will have a computer device by the start of the next school year. This is just another step to make Howard-Winneshiek School District stand out in the region.


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