The Garden City Telegram
8/14/2013
OPINIONS AND COMMENTARY

Tablet lessons

GCHS students report gains with use of new technology.

Garden City High School's first year of arming students with tablet computers went about as expected.

There were some glitches as students and teachers went to work with the new 1-to-1 iPad program: forgotten passwords, the occasional distraction of computer-based games and a handful of stolen computers that eventually were recovered, among other issues.

But as the school worked through the snags in the program's launch, it was easy to see how the positives outweighed any negatives.

Perhaps most encouraging were reports of better interaction and communication between students and their teachers in the classroom, thanks to the iPads, and even outside school when necessary as some students said they contacted their instructors online for help when they needed extra guidance with homework or other assignments.

Students also reported being more organized, which wasn't a surprise. Tablets — much easier to manage than a backpack full of textbooks — have become the computer of choice in schools and beyond because of their versatility and ability to replace laptops, books and other materials.

The tablet computers also will lower some expenses. District and student purchases of various supplies — be it notebooks, copy paper, binders or textbooks — will decline moving forward as the tablets erase the need for those items.

For example, GCHS officials estimated first-year savings of sheets of paper not printed because they were handled electronically at more than $80,000. That was for one-page documents, so the total might have been much higher.

Of course, the program start-up was costly. With total expense planned for the first two years at about $1.3 million, it's also necessary to consider the long-term return on the investment.

Anyone who would view the iPads as little more than high-priced toys should know the program reflects the kind of technological advantages and expectations students will have in college and the workforce.

Schools and educators are expected to prepare youngsters to succeed in a rapidly changing technological environment with the use of effective learning tools.

At GCHS, count tablet computers as one such strategy needed to help students and teachers accomplish that important goal.