GREENVILLE — Greenville City Schools has provided its entire student body with iPads as of the 2018-19 school year.
School administrators knew it wouldn’t be feasible to provide every student with an iPad until they’d moved to their new school building and upgraded their wireless capability, according to Assistant Superintendent Laura Bemus. Once that move was made, they began providing the devices to a couple of grade levels at a time, starting with kindergartners and first graders and working their way up to fifth and sixth graders by the beginning of last year.
This year, they decided to push forward and equip the remainder of the student body.
“We couldn’t think of a job that didn’t use a computer,” Bemus said of the school board’s decision. “So in order to be college and career-ready, we felt this was a step that we needed to take.”
The devices provide a number of advantages to students, Bemus said, including access to a program called E-Spark, which analyzes each student’s scores on standardized tests and provides them with individualized apps and content tailored to their educational strengths and weaknesses.
The iPads also provide access to digital textbook subscriptions, which in addition to providing web-based features that can supplement the material contained in a physical textbook, also eliminate the need for students to carry bags full of heavy books to and from school each day. The move, Bemus said, is expected to save the district lots of money in the long run.
“We had to avoid making decisions based on our adult biases — on what we’re used to,” Bemus said. “There are always questions as to what is the best technology to help our students. But we formed a committee that has worked very hard to answer those questions.”
Concerns have been expressed about iPads being broken, lost or stolen, but Bemus said there have been few issues in that regard.
“We’ve also worked hard to train the students in how to use and how to handle the iPads,” Bemus said. “And we’ve provided a lot of training to our teachers in how to incorporate the technology into the classroom.”
Additionally, school administrators have the ability to track the location of lost or stolen devices, as well as to lock or shut them down remotely, rendering them useless to potential thieves.
As for students misusing the devices for other than educational purposes, Bemus said that steps have been taken to guard against that as well. Teachers have the ability to remotely lock the devices, freeze their screens and even project an individual device’s display onto their own screen.
“We’re committed to teaching them good digital literacy and citizenship,” Bemus said. “Teaching them the right ways to use their technology. If a student misused a normal textbook, after all, you wouldn’t take it away. You’d discipline them and teach them how to use it correctly.”