Mandan Public Schools has been shifting toward putting iPads into the hands of all students — even kindergartners.
In 2016, the district purchased about 1,000 devices for students at Mandan High School. Last year, 900 students at Mandan Middle School each got their own iPad. This upcoming school year, students in grades 3-5 will have one, and, in 2019-20, grades K-2.
The district has been moving to integrate iPads in classrooms as part of a plan called Ignite 2020, which was updated last year to Ignite 2025. One goal of the plan is to ensure all students have access to technology, including after school.
"By providing every single student a device, we’re providing equity to our students, because they can all have that access to technology," said Perry Just, MPS curriculum and alternative education director.
Since the iPads were introduced, the district has noticed increased student engagement. Teachers are becoming more efficient by having software applications grade tests for them. Students at the secondary level say they like that they don't have to lug around textbooks.
The district did not increase its technology budget for the iPads, rather it shifted costs. Each device and accessories costs around $350. By the end of next school year, the cost for the iPads will reach nearly $1 million.
Before Ignite 2020, district administrators toyed with the idea of having iPads available for all students. In the fall of 2014, they visited a high school in Becker, Minn., a one-to-one school, meaning each student is paired with a device.
Administrators spent the whole day in Becker, and left determined to get iPads into the hands of their own students. The visit not only solidified that decision, but showed them what they should do differently.
Just said they knew they wanted students and staff not only on the same device, but the same software app, where teachers can upload videos of their lessons or live stream them, as well as grade assignments and exams. The focus of the past two years has not only been learning the device, but learning how to build quality content in the app.
Teachers can choose how much technology they want to integrate into their classrooms.
"I like that it's an option," said social studies teacher Ryne Jungling one morning this week, while teaching a summer semester civics class.
Jungling's students took notes and practiced flashcards on their iPads. Jungling said he likes how the use of iPads helps keep content current. In one instance during his class, a student was able to look up voter registration in Texas, which couldn't have been possible without an iPad.
The use of iPads in classrooms has helped tailor learning to each student, which Jungling likes. Students learn at different paces, and can use the iPads to look back at his presentation slides.
Bismarck Public Schools also uses technology in classrooms. Starting next school year, students in grades 9-12 will be issued their own Chromebooks. The majority of the district's middle school classrooms are already one-to-one, and many other grades have devices in their classrooms.
Technology in Mandan Public Schools continues to evolve as the district works to use it to personalize learning and create more engaging activities.
"Prior to that point where we made the platform switch (to Apple iPads) and when we made that commitment to have students have devices, technology was primarily a teaching tool. Now it's a learning tool," said Jeff Lind, MPS assistant superintendent.
The shift to iPads has also brought concerns about the role teachers play and how to limit distractions. Jeff Rerick, the district's technology coordinator, said teachers are more important than ever, because they need to have good relationships with their students. Classroom management is key to ensuring students stay on task without getting distracted.
The district limits the apps students can download. Teachers also have the ability to view what's on the screen of each iPad in class.
Lind said there are often misconceptions about students and screen times, including the amount of time students spend on their iPads, which is rarely the entire day or the entire class period. Just said, this year, they learned how iPad use varied at the high school and middle school. It will also be different in the elementary school, he said.
"It's part of our jobs, as educators, to teacher proper use of that technology. But first you have to put it in the hands of all kids," Just said.