The Free Press, Mankato, MN

Local News

March 25, 2013

St. Peter Schools boosting students' technology use

ST PETER — Technological improvements in the classroom are rendering old tools and practices obsolete.

Smart Boards replaced chalkboards. Laptops are replacing notebooks and paper. Skyping is replacing letter-writing with partner classrooms across the world.

John Lustig, technology director for St. Peter Public Schools, knows that trend is going to continue. He even sees textbooks as becoming a thing of the past.

To stay on top of the changes, St. Peter Schools wants to get an iPad in the hands of every student. Recently, the School Board approved the Saints Digital Learning Initiative, the first phase of which will cost $175,000 and be rolled out this fall.

In September, all ninth-graders will be issued their own iPad Mini, and all other grades will have carts of iPads to share. (The district now has four iPad carts for all classrooms to share). The ninth-graders will keep their iPads as they progress through high school, and incoming freshmen will be issued new iPads each year.

In four years the plan is for all high school students to have personal iPads to use in school and to bring home.

“The thing the iPad does is it allows for more personalization, and it allows for the types of activities students are used to in their daily lives (like using) their mobile phones,” Lustig said.

Middle school English teacher Paulette Topel — who had students use iPads Monday to work on historical fiction projects — said she expects the devices to save time due to added efficiency.

“I think it might save time, but I think really the big change will be how the time is used,” she said. “I’m actually curious to see how it changes things.”

Lustig said laptops are less portable, and youth respond more to “gesture-based interaction,” or touch screens. The technology also easily allows the district to stay on top of current apps that can easily be downloaded, he said.

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