MACLEOD PAPPIDAS | THE DAILY WORLD
Eighth-graders Mark James, right, and Rodney Hamm check out their new iPads during first period at Miller Junior High School in Aberdeen Wednesday. The entire student body were given the computers for use in the classrooms.
The digital citizens of tomorrow received their iPads yesterday.
In true Apple fashion, an assembly was held complete with loud music, slide shows, flashing lights and dignitaries to celebrate the highly anticipated release of iPads to each and every student at Miller Junior High on Wednesday morning.
The excitement of about 500 Bobkittens at Miller was palpable as the necessary speeches were made prior to turning the iPads over to the kids. The overarching theme of the event was “Dream Big,” and each speaker urged the students to use this technology to educate themselves to find, learn about and then go on to live their dream.
Principal Mark Decker admitted to the assembly he was choked up. He explained getting this type of technology in the hands of kids in school on a one-to-one basis has been his dream, a long time in the making.
With a huge grin and brimming eyes, Decker explained many elements came together in a “perfect storm” to make this dream a reality: the leadership of Superintendent Dr. Tom Opstad, a champion of technology in learning; a supportive school board and community; an opportunity for federal funding; partnership with Apple, and an enthusiastic staff that shared the dream and worked hard to make it happen.
Opstad told the packed Miller gym that this is an opportunity for kids to explore and find fascinating things using technology on a daily basis that will change their lives. “Technology is a learning tool,” he said, adding these students now have the necessary tool and the opportunity to master the skills needed for the 21st Century, to learn and grow along with the technology.
This is the first junior high in the State of Washington to undertake such a project, and Randy Dorn, state schools superintendent, was on hand celebrating that fact. He emphasized to the students that they must be the best examples and leaders so that other communities can follow suit. “Be a good role model for the rest of the country,” he said.
Dorn told students that the iPads provide the opportunity for the students to not only be educated by teachers but to educate themselves. He noted that using the iPad, students would be able to find out what challenges and interests them, helping them to get to where they want to be in life, working in a career versus a job.
Renee Sinclair, Apple’s strategic affairs leader for the West, also spoke to the assembled group. “You are at the leading edge, you are going to show the rest of the state how it’s done. Good for you,” she said. “You have the universe at your fingertips.”
After the speeches were done, the students and teachers went to classrooms and got their hands on what will become their day-long companion for the rest of the school year. When all the devices hit the network, there was a slight slowdown, but despite being maxed out, it held up fine.
Decker said throughout the day he received great feedback from the kids. “I’ve had a number of them come face-to-face to say thank you for making this happen,” he said, noting their sincerity was obvious.
In addition to a slight network strain, a few hiccups did emerge, as expected. Apparently the kids quickly found a Facetime app that enabled them to text each other from the lunchroom into classrooms, and one teacher discovered a girl had a photo of a young man without a shirt stuck on her wallpaper.
Decker said he asked the student if she would find it offensive if he had a woman without a shirt on his wallpaper. She agreed she would, so together it was deemed her wallpaper was not appropriate.
Things like that will come up, Decker said, so teachers and para-educators will be monitoring the situation. Federal funding requires the devices be equipped with filters, but those are not entirely foolproof. “We are teaching them responsibility,” Decker said, which is something the kids already have to contend with at home on open networks.
Right now each student will use their personal iPad only at school. “The next step is to find a way to have these devices go home with the kids,” Decker said. “If they are learning 24/7, their performance levels will go through the roof.”