G-ASD moves toward equal tech opportunities

Shawn Hardy

There will be five iPads in all Greencastle-Antrim elementary classrooms, kindergarten through fifth grade, at the beginning of the 2019-20 school year.

In January 2020, each student at Greencastle-Antrim High School will be given an iPad and each middle school student will have an iPad when the 2020-21 school year starts.

iMac labs to bolster STEAM (science, engineering, technology, the arts and mathematics) will be created at the high school and middle school.

That's the plan from what was dubbed the district's Technology Committee 2.0 that was presented at the Greencastle-Antrim School Board meeting Thursday evening by Dwight Bard, the district's director of technology.

Completing a technology plan is No. 3 on the list of goals for 2018-19 set by Dr. Kendra Trail, superintendent. The 2019-20 budget includes an additional $100,000 for technology initiatives. Overall, the cost is about half a million dollars over a four-year lease period for about 1,500 devices, according to Bard.

The board gave the go-ahead Thursday to places orders in for the technology to get the ball rolling in time for the start of the school year.

Technology Committee 2.0, featuring administrators, board members, teachers and parents, is the latest of several committees formed to examine technology over the years. The idea of 1-to-1 computers-to-students has been mentioned on and off since 2012 and refined under the concept of equal technology opportunities or ETO.

The vision is to promote lifelong learning with technology.

ETO strives to enhance the teaching and learning environment by:

• Equalizing learning opportunities for all

• Providing immediate access to information and digital resources

• Allowing for innovative instructional strategies that provide an environment for creativity and engagement

• Increasing student engagement through individualization

• Providing ongoing professional development opportunities

The committee looked at multiple vendors, but Apple really stood apart because of its focus on teaching, learning and the school environment, Bard said.

Several board members said they see the need, but are worried the big steps with technology and the expense.

Educationally, 1-to-1 sounds great, but "to the taxpayer, it sounds like a waste," said Mike Still, board president.

"I'm nervous, too, but we don't want to sit here for another two or three years," said Tracy Baer, vice president. "We have to get our kids used to carrying devices around ... that's the future."

"I think your fears are rationale," Bard said, explaining that is why professional development is critical.

Professional development will take place before school starts and will be ongoing. The timeline also includes getting policies on the use of iPads by students to the board in October and parent information sessions.