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iPads introduced to Park Rapids teachers

Computers and training awaited Century teachers Monday, fourth grade teachers Eric Pilgrim and Val Burton exploring possibilities. (Jean Ruzicka / Enterprise)1 / 2
Brianne Morris, a teacher leader, left, tutors Peg Lindstrom. Teachers arrived throughout the day Monday to claim their iPads and become acquainted with them. (Jean Ruzicka / Enterprise)2 / 2

Park Rapids instructors experienced a role reversal this week, finding themselves on the receiving end of the learning process.

All certified teachers in the district received an iPad, brief tutelage and "homework."

In hour and half-hour increments, pre-k through grade 12 teachers arrived for "basic training" and subsequent "deployment."

At this point, the educators are receiving the "management piece," Century principal Joleen DeLaHunt explained.

"We're not into the apps yet," she said of classroom learning tools. But some programs have been downloaded on the iPads teachers received this week - Pages, similar to Word, Keynote, resembling PowerPoint, and Numbers, a spreadsheet application like Excel.

The teachers, with the aid of teacher leaders, set up the computers for e-mail and Internet use, attendance records, document creation and received an intro on downloading applications for use in the classroom.

They headed out with assignments "and accountability for learning," which will be augmented with "ongoing, job-embedded training," DeLaHunt said.

"It's like Christmas," high school principal Jeff Johnson said of teacher reaction. "They are excited to try it."

Teachers, he said, will now be on their own to practice, become familiar with the computers. But training will continue in mini sessions.

The goal, DeLaHunt said, is to be wireless district wide by the end of the year.

No date has yet been set for implementation of the iPads in the classroom, but some teachers are already using them.

Physical education teacher Aarin Galzki, for example, uses Fitnessgram to assess student heart rates and physical strength, documenting individual progress.

Kids are also invited to "Bring It" - their own Smartphones, iPads, Kindles and other technology for use in the classroom.

Superintendent Lance Bagstad stressed the iPads "are in place of, not in addition to" from a spending perspective.

"We will make adjustments," he said of reallocating funds. "If we're moving toward the future, we can't spend like we're in the past."

Cost per computer, he said, is $379, with 110 staff members receiving them, as well as administration and school board members. At this point, the district has spent approximately $45,000.

Some of the funding will be allocated through special education dollars, Bagstad said. A Title I grant will fund a pilot program with 20 more computers purchased. Most of the dollars are from the general fund.

Monday night, school board members sat with an iPad to review a first reading of policies, as opposed to a pile of paper.

"It's awesome," DeLaHunt said of teachers' intense enthusiasm. "It's changing the way we teach. "But technology is a tool. It enhances teaching; it doesn't replace," she emphasized.

"We need to provide these learning opportunities for kids," Bagstad said. But he emphasized this will not be "on top of" what's currently being spent.