Students and educators threw a party at Wilder schools Wednesday, complete with cheers, confetti and a team of students from the National FFA Organization (formerly Future Farmers of America) extending handshakes to guests as they arrived.
Even Gov. Butch Otter came by.
The schools were celebrating their gift from Apple that is putting an iPad in the hands of every student and teacher, aimed at helping children learn better. The devices can be used at school or home.
“You are going to be the creators,” John Couch, Apple’s vice president for education, told a gym full of students from the elementary, middle and high schools. “You are going to be the problem-solvers.”
Apple pledged $100 million for high-tech devices and infrastructure to schools as part of President Barack Obama’s ConnectEd, an initiative to bring broadband and technology to nearly all of the country’s students in five years.
Wilder is one of 114 low-income schools in 29 states where Apple has provided tech opportunities for students who don’t have easy access to technology. Apple is working with districts where the low-income student population is at least 96 percent. Wilder is the only school district in Idaho to receive the Apple grant.
The company declined to give the dollar amount for its donation.
In Wilder, where the low-income percentage is at least 96 percent, an estimated 85 percent of households do not have Internet connectivity, said Tim Jensen, principal of Wilder Middle/High School. Through a partnership with Sprint, many of those homes will get free connectivity over three years.
Apple’s donation is a key ingredient in Wilder School District’s plan to move next fall toward an education system based on mastery of subjects, not hours spent in a classroom. The plan will do away with regular class periods as students use their devices to guide their education and teachers become more like mentors, said Superintendent Jeff Dillon. Students might move quickly through some subjects such as English, for instance, but need greater time for math, Jensen said.
“Students own their learning,” Dillon said. “We are going to shift from traditional education, where teachers own the learning, where the teacher does the thinking and students consume information.”
I like the challenge of doing something different.
Mario Betancourt, Wilder high school math teacher
In high school math classes, the iPads will allow all students access to the same information, such as a graphic calculator app, said Mario Betencourt, the high school math teacher.
Students will be “able to work at their own pace,” he said. “They will be able to work with the teacher on more individualized learning and (I) will be able to help the students a lot better.”
Students say the iPads will help them do research and solve problems.
“I think it is a good idea and will help a lot of people,” said Mialei Winchel. “There is more you can do with technology than you can with paper and pencil.”
Otter told the students that knowledge of technology is increasingly required in the workplace.
“This school is going to be with you 24 hours a day,” he told the students. “Do well with it. All Idaho (eyes) are on you.”