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Next Mineola School Tech Plan Would Focus on iPads

Proposal would give Apple devices to all middle school students.

Normally Mineola School Superintendent Dr. Michael Nagler presents the district’s multi-year technology plan in April, but certain developments – namely the introduction of the newest iteration of the Apple iPad – caused the presentation to be moved to the March 15 meeting at the .

When the superintendent learned that the iPad 2 would not be coming off the market and have a price drop, “it got me thinking about what are our finances for the following year and how can we leverage that in a new way?”

The process requires the Mineola board to vote to agree to terms of BOCES contract which would then go before that board for approval. No action would be taken at the meeting.

“So it’s quite a few steps,” the superintendent said. “These purchases are never easy because a lot of money will be paid over time and the banks and amortization and everything else involved in it.”

The district began its multi-year purchases in 2006-07 with the intent to replace every piece of technology in the district every 5 years. Before the purchasing plan the district’s equipment was “woefully ancient,” Dr. Nagler said. “The switches, the servers, the computers that kids touch, everything.”

In 2006-07 Mineola purchased roughly $250,000 worth of equipment, paying for it over 5 years, doing so again in subsequent years until reaching a peak of $540,626 in 2010-11.

“The idea there was you keep getting new equipment in bunches, in large sums and then you pay for it over time and when you reach the peak, your budget doesn’t go up any more because you’re going to flatten it out because the next time you buy something you’re going to stay within the year you’re replacing,” the superintendent said.

Last year the district replaced the first year purchase, gaining $57,000 in funds to spend, replacing $45,000 in technology items. Dr. Nagler explained that the numbers were different because of the amortization over time as well as one-time upfront fees. This year the district has $81,278 coming off as payment from the second year of the purchase plan.

“In this cycle none of our equipment is older than 5 years,” he said, noting that the warranties also run for 5 years.

Currently is the school “in worst shape” as it has no wired infrastructure and intermittent wireless access. Over the last break maintenance staff ran electrical to the , and will continue their work during the April break as well, with completion anticipated by the end of the break. The district is also converting two labs and the old library into classrooms, proposing wiring the buildings for internet and adding four netbooks in every classroom in the building.

“We’re going to be taking the netbooks we currently own and bringing them down to the younger grades,” Dr. Nagler said. “We like that because they’re small, they don’t take up a lot of room and those classrooms aren’t the biggest to begin with.”

A newer version of the teacher workstation and 30 netbooks in the new wireless library as well as interactive whiteboards in each classroom would be added. The setup would be replicated in Meadow as well. The wiring is also not complete in Meadow.

Over at the classrooms are wired but  all computers need to be replaced as they are coming off warranty. The building is also in need of a new wireless system.

The superintendent described the Jackson portion as “the most radical change” as the plan proposes to purchase all new desktop computers in the library and computer labs, moving the best of the old equipment into student classrooms as they are excessed. Two additional mobile carts of 48 netbooks would be created using what the already has in netbooks. Wireless access points would also be increased.

In 2010 the district purchased 100 iPad 1’s in the . Those iPads are being recommended to be used in co-teacher classrooms in third and fourth grade, with the being installed.

“We’ve seen especially with the special ed population,” Dr. Nagler said of the application which tailors itself to each individual student’s needs. “So I think it’s going to close our achievement gap a little bit there.”

Work on the science room is still being done and is not a part of the project. It is on track to be completed by September.

In the it is being recommended that iPad 2’s be given to all fifth, sixth and seventh graders and to backfill andy interactive whiteboards in classrooms.

“Obviously that’s going to be the building that’s going to be the biggest change,” Dr. Nagler said, noting that the final numbers are not set. “I’m a little nervous that the iPad 2’s may not be around for very much longer so I’m kind of anxious to lock that deal and get that in place.”

The superintendent also reported at the March 29 meeting that a grant from would help pay for about the first year’s payment on the iPad 2’s. The district will be redistributing the equipment from Willis Avenue across the other buildings. The week of March 19 the district also doubled its internet speed capacity from 50 GB to 100 GB.

The total amount of new equipment would be 500 iPad 2’s, 125 desktops, 20 wireless access points, 25 projectors and 16 promethium boards a number which will be reduced by board from Willis Avenue.

“Most of the problems we have with iPads we are confident we can overcome” Dr. Nagler said, referring to the ability to network the device, install a district internet filter and remotely push out an app and file structure to save to the district network. The biggest hurdle is “,” a Microsoft application used by staff on the netbooks. The company does make an iPad version allowing work to migrate to iPad and not lose any information.

“We’ve seen a lot of damage with the netbook; they are not a sturdy device, especially mobile,” Dr. Nagler said as per the reason for choosing the iPad over the netbook. The district had this year. The district has repaired or replaced about 50 cracked screens, having to train and certify its own staff to replace the screens themselves in order to become more cost-effective.

“I think they’re better in younger hands as well as in a stationary spot,” Dr. Nagler said.

The superintendent was “not opposed” to students keeping the iPads through their middle school academic career, but would have to determine a security deposit for over the summer.

“There is a possibility at the end of 3 years, we would be recycling it out anyway... in essence it’s a 3 year payment before we’re looking to buy them over again, so there is a possibility that we may be able to excess them,” he said. “A fifth grader next year could have it their whole career in the middle school and then we excess them and sell it to them.”

Geoffrey Walter April 05, 2012 at 02:49 PM
Do you think that putting the iPad into the hands of all the students at the middle school is a good idea? What are your thoughts on the 5-year technology plan?
gary bau April 07, 2012 at 07:06 AM
the challenge will be to provie work worth doing..as the distraction factor is amazing!! the school will need a high performing LMS..google docs cn do the job = no cost! put the school domain over the top so it looks localised the biggest issue with ipads is how to effectively get the task to the student(previousy worksheet) and how the student hands in their attempts at the task email will soon overload.and the review/return by teachers will become impossible1 a policy on 24/7 access to teachers needs to be sorted out as well...how long is reasonable for a student to wait for a response? 21st century skills wikis and blogs are clearly the answer with a flipped classroom...but if a textbook on a screen is being attempted there will be tears before bedtime..

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