Clover schools OK $4.2M for Connected Classrooms project

news@enquirerherald.comSeptember 19, 2013 

— The Clover school board Monday approved a three-year, $4.2 million investment in its Connected Classroom initiative, which aims to put an Apple iPad or MacBook Air in the hands of every student by next fall.

Under a lease-purchase agreement with Apple, the Clover district will pay $1.4 million each year for three consecutive years beginning in March for the computer hardware and software for teachers and students. The cost includes a full-time Apple training specialist on staff for the first year.

After the first three years, the project will be renewed if it’s successful, finance director Ken Love told the school board. “We’re committing to a long-term philosophy of using this technology as a teaching tool,” Love said.

Love said the school district won’t need to borrow money for the technology initiative. He said Clover has ended several years with budget surpluses, and can cover the cost. He also said the cost does not include any interest rate charges.

Superintendent Marc Sosne said Connected Classroom will change the way instruction looks in Clover schools. “As of August 2014, every teacher in the district will have been trained in the one-to-one instruction model,” Sosne said.

Classrooms, he said, will “be very different than it is right now. Every student will have a device on their desk or in their lap and can work independently. Teachers will need to plan lessons differently.

“The face of our instruction will be very different,” he said.

However, Sosne added that students won’t just be looking at computers.

“When it is done well, you will see a lot of collaborative learning,” he said. “We will see a lot of students working together on projects. And that is our goal, to be one of those lighthouse districts that does it better than everyone else.”

Right now, schools have carts with devices for the students to share on a 3-to-1 ratio, and older students can visit computer labs. Connected Classroom will provide each student with his or her own mobile computer.

The district earlier this month launched the first phase of the initiative — a pilot project — when it distributed more than 600 iPads to elementary and middle school classrooms across the district.

The project is being piloted with 33 teachers who applied to begin using the devices with about 1,000 students in their classrooms. The pilot teachers underwent training during the summer, and more training is planned during the current school year to train all teachers.

The school board budgeted about $300,000 in the current year to begin the pilot program.

Assistant Superintendent Sheila Quinn said it costs about $400 for each iPad and about $1,000 for each MacBook, plus applications, software, covers and other items. There are about 6,600 students in Clover schools.

Under the lease-purchase agreement, Quinn said Apple will recycle the older iPads and MacBook Air laptop computers and replace them with new versions, so students will have the newest technology.

Quinn said none of the MacBooks have been distributed at the high school. However, she said in October, the district will receive 170 MacBook Air laptops for teachers and about 2,000 for high school students.

About 240 of the MacBook Airs will be distributed this fall for the pilot project, she said.

The district also expects to receive about 2,500 more iPads this fall, she said.

Quinn said most of the iPads and MacBook Airs are planned to be distributed to students across the district in the fourth quarter of this year so students and teachers can begin to learn how to use them.

She also said students in third to 12th grades could begin taking the devices home and using them beginning in the fourth quarter. Before that happens, she said, the district needs to establish rules and guidelines.

Board member Liz Johnson wondered if students would take care of the costly devices if they are allowed to take them home. But board chairman Mack McCarter said other schools have discovered that students were responsible because they felt ownership.

“We’re not the guinea pigs in trying to do a lot of that stuff,” McCarter said.

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