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Helmut Schmidt, Published August 28 2011

Pelican students take iPad to class

PELICAN RAPIDS, Minn. – A new initiative will put iPads in the hands of every Pelican Rapids High School junior and senior when school opens this fall.

“We’re just thrilled that this will be part of their learning experience at school,” Superintendent Deborah Wanek said.

The school’s teachers have trained with their iPads since spring so they can make the best use of them when classes start Sept. 6, Wanek said.

The $98,000 iPad initiative is funded by a technology grant and donations from businesses and individuals, Wanek said. Altogether, 190 iPads were purchased.

The devices are user-friendly, wireless Internet capable and can run myriad applications for learning, she said, including programs that can help students with disabilities.

An iPad’s memory can hold textbooks or specific chapters of books that teachers can annotate. Teachers can also podcast their classes for students who miss class or need to review, Wanek said.

The school also uses “smartboards,” and information from that technology can be stored in the school’s servers and accessed by the iPads.

The district is also making two activities buses Wi-Fi capable, so students can use downtime on trips to access the Internet and study, Wanek said.

With Pelican Rapids using a four-day school week, it’s hoped that feature will take pressure off students by making it easier to get homework done on long trips for those involved in activities, she said.

“We’re hoping to make this a real positive experience for our students,” Wanek said. “I get excited about this.”

Students will pay a $50 rental fee for their iPads. The devices go back to the school at the end of the school year to be cleaned up for use in coming years, Wanek said.

Principal Brian Korf said research shows iPads increase student engagement, improve communication and lead to higher test scores, Korf said.

Students will have email accounts, and assignments can be posted using Google documents and calendar, he said.

“We’re very excited,” he said. “I really like my iPad. I can take it anywhere I go. I think kind of our dream with students is getting textbooks on the iPad.”

Depending on the program’s success, and if more grants and donations can be cobbled together, Korf said a good goal would be to extend the program someday to sophomores and freshmen.

School board member Mitch Monson said the iPad initiative is a great way to give students a leg up on the future.

“I think it’s a great opportunity for the students to get that exposure now, because they’ll be using that type of tech when they get to college,” he said. “I think it’s just a great jump ahead to get that exposure in high school.”

Readers can reach Forum reporter Helmut Schmidt at (701) 241-5583