School district hopes $30K iPad purchase will improve teacher performance


Gov. Butch Otter receivied a firsthand look at a natural gas well last week from representatives of Alta Mesa energy company.

An eastern Idaho school district has purchased top-of-the-line iPad computers in an effort, officials say, to improve teacher performance.

Earlier this month, Bonneville School District 93 delivered to principals, assistant principals, and some district office administrators a total of 34 iPads with 3G capability (Internet anywhere) and maximum memory (64 Gigabytes). The model purchased is the most expensive at $829; the district spent $29,512 (including computer cases) in federal “Title II” funds designated for staff development.

District 93 School Improvement Coordinator Scott Woolstenhulme said the machines will allow administrators to spend more time in classrooms evaluating teachers since they will be able to enter observations into an online form on the spot, rather than having to write things out twice — once in the classroom and again at office computers. As a result, teachers will get feedback faster, Woolstenhulme said.

Idaho Falls resident and District 93 taxpayer Rebecca Bohman questions the spending. She said she understands the money for the iPads was designated for staff development but that buying the fancy devices seems wrong given recent budget cuts, threats of scaled-back programs, and pleas for higher levies.
“It seems like an awfully big waste of money when we have so many other needs,” she said. “It seems like a waste in the climate we have.”
A $2.8 million levy to pay for maintaining technology, grounds, buses and buildings fell 2 percent short of passing earlier this year; the district is trying again in December.

Elementary school principal Jason Lords told Local 8 News in Idaho Falls that his iPad helps him follow through on evaluations.

“Before we’d do them on paper, for example. And I’d put it on paper and many times I’d come back to the office, set that down and realize a couple days later that, ‘oh my heck,’ I hadn’t sent that back to the teacher,” he said.

Said Woolstenhulme: “We’re trying to emphasize principals as instructional leaders … I really saw a need and saw that an iPad best meets the need.”

Because not all of the district’s 18 school’s are Wi-Fi outfitted, administrators opted for the expensive 3G model, which requires a subscription costing about $15 per month, per machine, said Woolstenhulme. As for the need for maximum memory, Woolstenhulme said the district hopes to someday offer training via Podcast.

iPad retail prices range from $499 to $829 (Apple Store and Best Buy), depending on the model’s memory and if it is 3G or Wi-Fi enabled. Apple offers an education discount of $20 per machine on Wi-Fi models only.

Title II staff development money (the district has about $300,000 this year) typically pays for teachers to attend classes and conferences but the district is trying to cut back on that because of high costs of airfare, hotels and registration fees, Woolstenhulme said. Sending a teacher to conference typically costs the district $5,000, he said, adding that training via Podcast would be cheaper. The district has invited teachers to apply for technology grants, which could go toward buying iPads, funded by about $1 million left over from an elementary school construction project paid for by bonds in 2008.

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A school district in Idaho Falls purchased top-of-the-line Ipads for some employees, A school district in Idaho Falls purchased top-of-the-line Ipads for some employees

9 Comments

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  2. Lynda

    How on earth are these things going to improve teacher performance? Anyone with some tech knowledge know that I-pads are cute, but not worth much when it comes to performance. Furthermore, mac/apple is a profit pipeline, everything costs more with apple. Linux would have been a better choice. The odds are these things won’t be compatible with existing computers in the school system. Wait and see, in a few months there will be another story about how we had to purchase software, or additional computers so that these things would function.

    This really makes me upset. It is a silly waste of money, how EXACTLY will it improve teacher performance? Here is an idea? How about we end tenure and simply fire teachers who can’t teach? That a way, we would be on track for success.

  3. Harriet

    Interesting…I posted this article for my school finance class to discuss. I’m sure there will be students on both sides of this issue.

  4. Monica

    If you want to improve teacher performance give them the Ipads. Then they can walk around the room as they check attendance and monitor students instead of sitting at their desks all the time.

  5. Scott

    In reply to the question about how the iPads will increase teacher performance. It’s easy to say just fire teachers who can’t teach. Reality is a different story. Teachers have the right to due process, just like everyone else. Simply put, that means principals just can’t say, “I think you can’t teach, you’re fired.” They must have documented evidence of a lack of performance. That is exactly how the iPads will help increase teacher performance. They give principals the tool to record frequent visits to classrooms documenting specific observations of teaching. This is exactly the kind of documentation that is required to dismiss teachers whose performance is inadequate.

    As far as the compatibility concern. The form we have designed is web-based specifically to make it cross-platform compatible. Unless the web is going away sometime in the near future, the iPads will be perfectly compatible with their use. We didn’t purchase these because they were the latest and greatest; we purchased them because they fit a need we have had for years.

  6. Johnson

    I am a teacher in D93. I am very impressed with the new evaluation method using the ipads. I can see where a principal would be able to do more classroom visits per day using this than if he did it on paper and then had to type an email and send it.

    I believe this will help teachers better understand how they are doing as a teacher and how they present information to their students.

    I don’t believe teachers need Ipads to teach. The powerschool software allows me to enter grades anywhere I have internet access.

    The district needed to start somewhere and they may as well start with the principals. Eventually teachers will have them.

  7. Pingback: Bad teachers, fear the iPad: official believes trendy machines could help identify poor performers « Idaho Reporter

  8. Pingback: Two school districts march toward high-tech education with $88,000 in Ipad purchases « IdahoReporter.com

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