AP students to receive iPad Minis, less textbooks


Alex Gompper

CPS rolled out school sets of iPad 2s for students. Next year, the district hopes to distribute iPad Minis to AP students. Photo by Alex Gompper
With the usage of more and more mobile Apple technology, applications and software capabilities have risen, too. When Apple released the sixth major update to its mobile software platform, iOS 6, Sept. 19, iPads, iPods and iPhones were pushed further into the reigns of accessibility with the introduction of features such as Guided Access.
Guided Access provides limited usage of buttons or specified areas of the screen when activated. A few years prior, Apple released iTunes U, a specific section to their multimedia store in which users could download lectures, lessons and demonstrations–for free.
From an outside perspective, Apple may have found a market in which it could profit greatly: education.
Columbia Public Schools has not been left out of the loop. At the beginning of the 2012-2013 school year, CPS introduced a new value to their education system. With this value came the 21st century skills that many students have unknowingly become affiliated with. These skills mainly revolve around the multifaceted capabilities of the technological revolution that has come with the 21st century. Essentially, the world has advanced rapidly in terms of technological developments, and thus educational systems must fit that mold in an order to properly prepare students for those changes.
Most students here have become familiar with the technological resources available to them. Teachers may sign up for different ‘mobile labs’ which pertain to different forms of technology. One mobile lab holds a set of Dell Vostro laptops and another carries a set of iPads. These individual devices can then be distributed among that teacher’s students for that hour.
The 2013-2014 school year will bring about a technological change for one demographic at RBHS: AP students. These changes will include the allocation of a personal electronic device to each student at the beginning of the year; similar to how a textbook is checked out at the beginning of the school year, and later returned. Next year, iPad Minis will be given to all students who are a part of an Advanced Placement course.
“We are piloting this approach to providing students with an electronic tool if they are enrolled in certain courses,” Sally Beth Lyon, Chief Academic Officer for Columbia Public Schools said. “In this case, AP courses.”
The iPad Minis will bring to the table a wide variety of technological capabilities. Apple’s A5 processor is the second-fastest (just short of the iPhone 5’s A6 processor) that Apple offers. The new iPads will also squash their larger, dated counterparts with a plethora of high-definition graphics, 1080p video recording, and a front-facing camera that dwarfs previous versions. A 10-hour battery life will also provide more than enough juice for classes, even with the coming schedule changes.
Although not all students will receive this personal electronic device, CPS hopes to offer a new path that will prove to be beneficial to all that partake. On the district side, physical textbooks can be replaced with electronic ones, whose obsolescence will be much easier to avoid. Electronic subscriptions to textbook providers will allow the district to rapidly update their curricular material, without the hassle of removing older course materials that have been outdated. Students in multiple AP classes will no longer suffer the burden of hauling their bodyweight in textbooks.
Although Apple’s technology has been known for overpricing, Lyon said the cost of iPad Minis is significantly lower than regular iPads (starting prices for the iPad mini begin at $329 vs. the iPad 2’s price-tag of $399) and that the district has already set aside approximately $400,000 in tax revenue to accommodate the financial side of next year’s technology.
“We are hoping to provide students with a personal learning device that enhances their learning and productivity,” Lyon said, “Not only will students be able to access digital versions of textbooks, they will have a device that allows them to explore the world of information available online. We hope that teachers and students alike will innovate with this new technology and exploit the opportunities available to 21st century learners.”
By Alex Gompper