Board approves purchase of tablets

By Erika Pedroza | Published Saturday, June 15, 2013

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Northwest ISD secondary students next year will be able to more easily “plug in” to the world of technology.

The school board Monday approved the purchase of Dell Latitude 10 tablets for middle and high school students and teachers, as outlined by the long-range technology plan presented last month.

The $9.3 million purchase, to be paid from local budget and approved bond funds, will be phased in over the next four school years. This year’s budget impact is $4.6 million for tablets for all high school students and teachers. Middle school pupils and their instructors will receive the device next year.

The total also includes laptops for all district teachers, iPads for elementary teachers and four carts of devices for each middle school and five for each high school campus.

“What I love is the absolute ease this is going to give,” said Superintendent Dr. Karen Rue. “Our students can immediately capture some complicated aspect of a learning experience and be able to go back home and review it and see it. Parents will have that kind of access. Gone will be the statement, ‘You don’t understand, Mom and Dad. My teacher does it this way. You can’t help me.’ Yes, they can. They can go to that NetSchool page, and they can see an example of what we’re talking about.”

NISD director of technology Carl Shawn said that when the committee – made up of students, teachers and administrators – was asked to look at the products available to extend students’ learning opportunities in and out of the classroom, they pursued the chosen product for two reasons.

“This not only allows the world to come into the classroom but this allows our students to publish to the world,” he said. “And, (being technologically connected) is great for schools; more importantly it’s great for learners.”

District officials believe logistical conveniences, such as consolidating the capabilities of multiple devices into one smaller tool, will facilitate those goals.

The Dell Latitude tablets are Windows-based and PC-compatible. Apps on the tablet can run on a computer, and the tablet can connect to a printer, can convert into a mouse that controls the computer and can connect to a computer, which would serve as a projector.

In addition, a USB port on the tablet also enables the quick transfer of files from device to device.

Such features enable a key component of effective teaching – mobility.

“Being able to move around the classroom is a huge part of teaching class,” said Rory Peacock, NISD coordinator for instructional technology. “In the current classroom, we have projectors, a document camera, a digital chalkboard you can control your computer with.

“With this, it’s the same. So it’s not just a flat chalkboard at the front. This is the computer itself. It goes back and forth easily. As the document camera, I hit the button and on the projector I see whatever it is that this camera is looking at. So I can take it over to a document, hover over this student who is doing a great job, and with the click of a button I’ve captured that into my computer … As the teacher I can control and move the documents around or step back and let people work independently.”

Upgrades in the district’s technology infrastructure would take that mobility a step further.

“We’re working on upgrading NetSchool from (version) 1.9 to 2.4, and with 2.4, I can take that picture, click it and make it accessible to all students,” Peacock said.

Rue also pointed out the device’s all-in-one features including “the backlit screen, the color, the ease, the touch, the ability to use it for Internet work and be able to go back to a full suite of utility programs that are found in Microsoft Windows and Office.”

“It’s a daily exploration of finding neat ways our kids will be able to utilize these tools in their learning,” Shawn said. “Not only with these specific tablets but with the devices we come across as advances are made and our options evolve.”

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