iSchool: St. Paul students getting iPads after district ditches Dell

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Each and every student in the St. Paul School District is getting an iPad.

The district announced the move this week, saying students at about half of the schools would receive the tablets on loan starting this year, with plans to have in iPad for each and every student and teacher starting in the fall of 2015.

The tablet initiative is part of the district's Personalized Learning Plan strategy – which initially had a different computing partner.

As the MPR reports, the district had a nearly $4.3 million deal with Dell to create a new digital learning platform that would act as an online hub for everything school-related.

But one year in, school officials decided the system that was being created would "not serve students ... enough to continue investing in it."

According to the Pioneer Press, the district leaders' initial pitch two years ago was not focused on getting every student a personal device. But officials now tell the paper relying on students to have their own electronic device that could access the digital learning tools simply wouldn't work in an urban district with high levels of poverty.

The Star Tribune says the school district does not have a cost estimate for the iPad loan program yet. But in 2012, voters gave the district the go-ahead for a $9 million-a-year technology initiative – which initially spurred the now-defunct Dell deal.

The district is the largest in the state to implement an "iPad for every student" program.

"Our strategy of putting Apple iPad technology directly in the hands of students will give them access to a greater range of learning tools and sources of information," the district wrote in a letter to parents posted on its website.

There are more than 39,000 students enrolled in St. Paul public schools, plus nearly 5,400 full-time staff members, the district says.

iPads in Schools

A handful of other Minnesota school districts have turned to iPads as a new learning tool.

In 2012, the Farmington School District issued iPads to each of its more than 3,500 students. Each iPad comes with a loan agreement that must be signed by students and parents. The agreement includes insurance, plus there are rules on how the iPads can be used in school and at home.

Rochester introduced a plan in 2012 to get the Apple tablets for all its students. The district got approval, but then met resistance from the Department of Education because of a funding issue, KTTC reported. The Rochester Post-Bulletin reported in March of this year that about 3,500 iPads were currently in circulation – but funding options for the other 13,000 students are still being considered.

The Virginia School District is in its third year of providing students in sixth through 12th grades an iPad. Students in kindergarten through 12th grade get an iPad in the Watertown-Mayer district. MPR notes younger students in Wayzata and Spring Lake Park share iPads, while older students get their own.

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