District 30 has enough Apple iPads for every fourth-grade student, and with more on the way, it’s clear that new technology has become irrevocably bound to the learning process. The district hosted a forum at the Shaw Avenue School on Dec. 10 to detail the status of their iPad initiative, which aims to put a device in every student’s hands in the next two to three years.
“Once you see the resource, there really is no going back,” said Superintendent Nicholas Stirling. The forum included a presentation by eSpark, a company tasked with smoothing the integration process and providing electronic curriculum. That was followed by classroom tours and a discussion session with teachers and faculty from neighboring districts.
In one classroom, a cluster of students sat quietly with iPads, working on exercises tailored to their skill level, while their teacher gave close attention to a smaller group at the other side of the room. This is what the classroom of the near future could look like, according to the district, with curriculum becoming a hybrid of traditional instruction and iPad-based learning.
District 30 has been gradually implementing the technology into schools over the last three years with the help of state funding and eSpark’s guidance. The district secured a $600,000 performance grant through the state Education Department during the 2012-13 school year to pay for the devices and the lockers they are stored in, and has spent $200,000 over the three years since to get the iPads up and running.
The eSpark curriculum is a separate expense paid for by the district’s general fund, but by contracting with the Nassau County Board of Cooperative Educational Services, the district qualifies for a percentage of state aid reimbursement based on their usage, according to Assistant Superintendent for Business Lisa Rutkoske.
During the 2013-14 school year, students who used the curriculum scored an average of 10 percentile points higher on the Northwest Evaluation Association exams. In the same year, 50 special education students who used it scored eight percentile points higher, an 80 percent increase from fall to spring, according to eSpark.