The Free Press, Mankato, MN

Local News

April 11, 2010

GFW students to get iPads

Will be used in schools starting in fall

— The Gibbon-Fairfax-Winthrop School Board has approved a one-of-a-kind technology initiative.

GFW High School students will each receive an Apple iPad to use for school, starting this fall. School leaders say the iPads, which are smaller than a laptop but bigger and more capable than an iPhone, will help engage learners.

The iPad hit store shelves nationwide April 3 and sold briskly, with some stores running out.

GFW Supt. Steve Malone said such technology will “eventually replace textbooks.”

High School Principal Jeff Bertrang said the iPads will give students “anytime, anywhere” access to their education.

“We’re talking a lot about 21st-century learners,” Bertrang said. “But if we’re going to engage kids, then we have to get things into their hands and let them play with their education.”

The price tag for such an initiative is not cheap — about $335,000 for the iPads and the necessary warranties and applications, as well as some additional funds to bolster the district’s wireless infrastructure.

Funding for the project was pooled from a variety of sources. Because of McLeod West’s consolidation last school year with the GFW, Buffalo Lake-Hector and Glencoe-Silver Lake school districts, GFW received $200-per-pupil in “consolidation incentive funds” from the state. That money was paired with capital funds and some money previously set aside for computer lab improvements.

Bertrang said he knows of no other public school district in the state with such an initiative. But several private schools in the state do have laptop programs, including Mankato Loyola, which is in its first year of its 1-to-1 laptop initiative.

Bertrang said he hopes to have the new machines purchased by May and work with staff during the summer to develop new lesson plans for the iPads and to develop specific policies for their use.

“With kids, this will be a walk in the park,” Bertrang said. “We’re the ones that are a little more apprehensive.”

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