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Few bugs reported with schools’ iPad programs

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Nearly a year after more than 3,000 local students got shiny new iPads to use at school, most of the devices are still intact.

About 100 students in Center Grove and Nineveh-Hensley-Jackson schools have dropped and broken the screens on their school-issued iPads or accidentally snapped cords off in the device’s port. School officials knew when they gave the high school and middle school students the devices that some of them would break, which is why they have spare devices ready to give students to use while theirs are being repaired, technical directors Julie Bohnenkamp and Perry Ellington said.

Center Grove’s technology department can repair the broken screens themselves, while Nineveh-Hensley-Jackson sends the broken iPads to a local repair shop to be fixed, the technology directors said.

Center Grove spent about $1.2 million for more than 2,000 iPads, which were given to all high school students in August, and Nineveh-Hensley-Jackson spent about $560,000 for 1,100 devices for its sixth- through 12th-graders. Both school districts wanted students to complete projects that included online research and to use video- and audio-based lessons created by their teachers.

The concept came with a few kinks.

Both school districts needed to increase their amount of Internet connectivity, or bandwidth, so that all students could use the devices without interruption. And at the start of the school year, Center Grove had to stop students from reprogramming the devices so they could download games and use social media. The school district also had to stop using a remote filter that blocked certain websites when students were away from school because it was causing the iPads to run more slowly.

But since then Center Grove hasn’t had a problem with students trying change the devices’ programing, and next school year the school district plans to expand its program by providing 600 devices to eighth-graders, Bohnenkamp said.

“It just makes sense. They’re the feeder to the high school,” Bohnenkamp said.

Center Grove paid for the high school’s iPads with money from its technology budget and cash that was saved after refinancing the loan that paid for Maple Grove Elementary School. The school district will pay for the 600 middle school devices with technology money, which comes from local property taxes and pays for technology employees, computers, software and programs, Bohnenkamp said.

Midway through next school year, Center Grove school officials will figure out whether to purchase devices for the school district’s roughly 600 seventh-graders and 600 sixth-graders for the 2015-2016 school year, Bohnenkamp said.

For now, Nineveh-Hensley-Jackson has no plans to buy more iPads for students in other grades, Ellington said. Indian Creek’s third- through fifth-graders already use netbooks, or laptops, in class.

Both school districts expect that the iPads students started using this school year can be used for up to five years. Center Grove and Indian Creek likely will use a combination of the textbook and technology fees families pay along with money from their technology budgets to pay for new iPads to replace the current devices in the future, Bohnenkamp and Ellington said.

Bohnenkamp and Ellington wanted the teachers and students at both school districts to spend the school year getting used to having the devices in class and learning about the kinds of audio, visual and educational apps that are available. Next school year, the technology directors want teachers to start using more apps, such as iMovie, to create videos for students, and to create more interactive assignments.

Math teachers, for example, should be using the iPads to have students record their voices and keystrokes so they can demonstrate to their teachers that they know how to solve different kinds of problems, Bohnenkamp said.

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