Major changes coming to Horry County Schools' student tablet pro - WMBFNews.com, Myrtle Beach/Florence SC, Weather

Major changes coming to Horry County Schools' student tablet program

MYRTLE BEACH, SC (WMBF) - For the third year in a row, the Horry County School district is expending its technology program, but also making some new changes when it comes to the tools your child can use inside the classroom.

The changes are mainly at the middle school level. This is only the third year implementing such a huge program, so each year they're making some adjustments. This year, they're rolling iPads out to all the 5th graders as well!

Last year, middle schoolers, 6th, 7th, and 8th graders, all got iPads. High schoolers each got a Dell Venue.

“As a property owner in this county, I am glad for my tax money to be going to something that’s so forward thinking,” said Natalie Von Loewenfeldt, the mother of a 7th grader.

The district has a one-to-one tablet-to-student ratio right now, and for this new year, each 5th grader will get an iPad Air. That totals up to more than 26,000 tablets for the entire district.

“The beauty of technology is that it changes daily, and that’s why it’s such a great thing for instruction. And it provides us so many opportunities for additional information for students and instruction,” said Ashley Gasperson, HCS Technology Coordinator.

There are also some changes with the fees this year. There is a $25 technology fee that is included in the registration, if you registered your kid online. That fee helps offset the cost of repairing any damages, from drops to chips to breaks, throughout the year. The fee is across the board for all grades.

Another major change: this year middle schoolers will not be allowed to take the iPads home with them. High schoolers will still be allowed to take the Dell Venues home, as long as you pay that damage fee.

Leaders with the district say the iPad program has been a learning experience for them, trying to figure out the best way to protect the iPads, protect the students, and encourage learning all at the same time.

The decision to not allow the iPads to go home this year was definitely a tough one to make, but it's one that parents say they're hoping will change soon.

“We were really excited for him to have the iPad, and to be able to bring it home,” Von Loewenfeldt said. “For one thing, it diminishes the number of books he needs to bring home.”

She says having homework on the iPad meant he could not lose a paper assignment. It was easier to hold him accountable for getting his work done. Plus, she saw the benefits beyond homework.

“He’s learning things like how to put together a presentation that will be beneficial to him in the workplace eventually,” Von Loewenfeldt said.

But for this coming year, iPads for 5th through 8th graders must stay in the classroom at all times. Administration made the decision partly because the damage rates were higher than expected at the middle school level. But the main reason was to eliminate distractions in the classroom.

“It would allow less distractions, because students weren’t downloading different things that were not instructional,” Gasperson said. “Which is fine when they’re at home. But can sometimes become an issue when they’re in the building. So keeping them in school was an instructional decision, to allow them to focus completely on the instruction.”

Getting that complete focus from your kids means they'll get the most of out the iPads in the long run.

"That technology is a part of everything they do and we need to have ability to learn, and to use, and to grow with it,” Gasperson said.

Teachers know that the iPads are no longer going home, so they are adjusting their planning for that. The district could eventually look to reconsider, but right now it's sticking to the decision to keep the iPads in the classroom.

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