HARRIS - The Bark River-Harris School District has moved one step closer to adopting a one-to-one student iPad initiative.
In July, the Bark River-Harris School Board voted to approve the purchase of 340 additional iPads for use in the middle school and high school. This brings the district's total number of iPads close to 450, since the district purchased several devices last year.
"This is kind of the final piece of a three-year technology plan," explained Bark River-Harris Superintendent Jason Lockwood.
The first year of the plan included improvements to technology infrastructure, such as updating servers and installing wireless Internet, funded through a 2 percent grant from the Hannahville Indian Community. Last year, the district implemented a pilot program using iPads in one classroom at the first grade level and also at the high school level. Every teacher also received an iPad.
"The results were pretty astonishing," said Lockwood. "We saw academic achievement rates that we had not seen in the past. We noticed a decrease in discipline. We noticed an increase in attendance, so a lot of these variables that we were trying to measure, we saw the types of results we were hoping to see."
The pilot was so successful last year, the district purchased an additional mobile iPad lab for kindergarten, for a total of three mobile labs in circulation.
"Now we're at the point in which we've collected all the data, analyzed it, and have seen the kind of impact it can have on teaching and learning and we want to move forward with it," said Lockwood.
The district noticed increases when comparing test scores of 11th graders using the devices to when they were 10th graders not using the devices.
"I'm sure that there were a lot of different reasons for that - exceptional instruction, quality of teachers, all of those things are obviously very important, but I would like to believe that these devices had a contributing factor to all the successes that the kids had," noted Lockwood.
The school board has unanimously supported a one-to-one initiative for the district, which means every student from seventh grade through 12th grade will each have a new iPad for their use this year.
The iPads used last year as part of the pilot will then be recycled and used in the elementary classrooms. Each elementary classroom will receive five of the devices.
The new devices are available through a three-year lease the district has with Apple. The district will be able to renew the lease agreement or purchase the devices if they choose to when the lease expires.
The district will also participate in the 22.i. Michigan SPOT bid process to receive some grant funding for the project and will be writing 2 percent grants through the Hannahville Indian Community to help fund it.
"Some of the reasons why I believe this is such an important piece of an overall, well-rounded type of education that we're working hard to offer here, is that it allows teachers to differentiate instruction," said Lockwood. "It evens the playing field for all the kids and there's just so much technology available for teachers to utilize that."
Lockwood said Bark River-Harris is modeling this new one-to-one initiative after what Calumet Laurium District Schools have implemented, and believes the initiative means the district is technologically staying ahead of the curve.
"We are always looking for new ways to engage and enrich our students' learning experience at Bark River-Harris," said Lockwood. "By offering our students access to the latest technology as a medium for educational advancement, we feel that our students will be better prepared for a technologically advanced world."