Ascension to provide devices to sixth- and ninth-graders
“Assuming there is no budget crisis that would change our plans, in five years all middle and high school students should have a personal computing device.” Jake T. ragusa, director of technology for Ascension Parish schools
DONALDSONVILLE — The Ascension Parish school system could become one of the first districts in the state to hand a personal computing device to each of its middle and high school students.
The school district is expanding its “one-to-one” technology program for the 2012-13 school year, providing an estimated 1,800 iPad tablets to sixth- and ninth-grade students. Those students will join the approximately 2,000 students who already are using Apple MacBook laptops.
“Assuming there is no budget crisis that would change our plans, in five years all middle and high school students should have a personal computing device,” said Jake T. Ragusa, director of technology for Ascension Parish schools.
Ascension is one of several districts throughout the state that have put an emphasis on technology, said Barry C. Landry, spokesman for the Louisiana Department of Education.
DeSoto Parish in north Louisiana instituted a ninth-grade iPad initiative that will be extended to all high school students in 2012-13, while Rapides Parish and Monroe city schools also are using iPads to deliver lessons in certain schools, Landry said. St. James Parish schools also are pushing a one-to-one initiative using laptops.
Ragusa said Ascension officials shifted from the laptop to the iPad because of its cost and availability. He said Apple provided a good purchasing agreement for the district as well as training and support for school officials.
Jamie Noel is familiar with the iPad’s effects on education.
Noel, the assistant principal at Sherwood Academic Magnet Middle School in Baton Rouge, is pushing to get more iPads in her school. She and school principal Phyllis Crawford have identified the iPad because of the versatility it brings to the classroom.
“(The students have) just devoured information on it,” Noel said last week from Los Angeles International Airport, where she was boarding a flight to return home to Baton Rouge after attending the International Society for Technology in Education conference in San Diego. “It helps them to see things differently.”
Ascension Schools Superintendent Patrice Pujol said she believes the iPad can allow students to take charge of their education.
“The kids are able to be more interactive,” Pujol said. “If they’re exploring on the iPad, exploring the solar system on the iPad, they’re almost able to feel like they’re inside the solar system as they’re going through it.”
Sherwood’s program started with a single iPad two years ago, and Noel instituted an iPad club at the school where students would bring their own tablets from home. The club grew to 18 students, and the school has invested in the product, purchasing 30 iPads for classroom use. Noel also said all 60 teachers at the school have an iPad for classroom instruction, and the school will add 20 MacBooks this fall.
In addition, Noel will teach a creative writing class that focuses on the iPad, she said.
Noel said the goal at Sherwood is to eventually have a one-to-one ratio of laptops and tablets to students.
Noel is convinced, though, that Sherwood students are responding to the iPad and that it’s making a difference at the school.
“We want to do a lot of virtual projects on iMovie (one of the Apple Inc. applications available on the iPad),” she said. “We want to get to the point where kids are doing everything with technology and get away from paper.”
Ascension Parish has made a significant investment in technology for its school system. Ragusa said the district made an original investment of $20,000 five years ago to combine with state funds and an Apple partnership for 100 MacBooks. Over the past three years, the district spent about $450,000 each year on laptops and software, and that amount is expected to increase to between $1.2 million and $1.4 million in 2012-13.
Landry said Department of Education officials are impressed that several districts have embraced technological improvements, and they would like to see more districts become involved in the movement.
“Through these types of digital learning and increased technology, our students now have access to knowledge and experiences that would have been unquestionable, even five years ago,” Landry said.
It’s not yet known just how much accessibility to technology impacts a student’s education, Pujol said, though more and more schools are starting to utilize resources such as iPads in the classroom. She hopes the investment the district is making will pay off in the long run, she said.
“I don’t know that you can in any way give exact correlations or causation,” Pujol said. “I think we are engaging kids in ways that enhance their learning and equates to higher scores.”