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Helmut Schmidt, Published August 23 2012

Northern Cass reboots its tech by going to iPads

HUNTER, N.D. – Northern Cass School District is hitting refresh on its technology.

The high school, which has had a laptop computer program for several years, is switching to Apple iPads.

Nearly 130 10th- through 12th-graders were issued iPads, keyboards and a carrying case Thursday.

“It’s pretty cool. New. Different,” said sophomore James Hollister, swiping his finger across the screen to move to a different view. “It’s nice. You can take it anywhere you want with you.”

The school’s technology coordinator, Tim Keckler, said the change reflects our society.

“Mobile devices are really, really being used in the work world,” Keckler said. “Ninety percent of the work is being done there.”

Keckler said the students will get 84 apps to use on the machines, covering a wide range of subjects, including chemistry, math and physics. He said the students are excited.

“They’re from that mobile device world,” Keckler said.

Burgad said there were several reasons for the switch.

First, the Apple products take less of a bite out of the district’s budget. An iPad with its keyboard, case and software can be purchased for $600 to $700, whereas laptops doing the same work cost $1,200.

Secondly, the iPad is smaller, lighter and more mobile – about 1.5 pounds and 9.5 by 7.3 inches, Wi-Fi and Bluetooth capable.

Finally, the apps available for the iPad fit well with the curriculum at Northern Cass, Burgad said.

Miriam Tobola, the school’s 21st-century learning skills coach, calls the initiative “a fabulous opportunity for our students and our staff.”

She said the iPads should improve students’ communication abilities, creativity, collaboration, critical thinking and problem-solving skills.

A $65,000 grant from the North Dakota Educational Technology Council helped pay for the switchover, Burgad said. The rest of the cost has been paid out of the district’s general fund.

When this year’s seniors graduate, their iPads will go to the next sophomore class, he said.

Burgad said the switch from PCs to iPads shouldn’t be too jarring.

“Our teachers and our students are quite accustomed to having a piece of technology to learn,” Burgad said.

Sophomore Emily Gadberry is one of those digital natives.

She says the iPad should make it easier to take notes.

“I have an iPod Touch,” Gadberry said. “It (the iPad) is definitely different. It has a keyboard, which will make it easier to use.”

Burgad said the students will get a couple of days to upload apps and train with the machines.

If the initiative works well, the district may expand the iPad initiative to include future freshmen classes, he said.

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