Maine Education Department Lets Districts Trade iPads for Laptops

A major benefit of this “refresh” swap is that it will offer features and components that match what teachers and students have been asking for the past three years.

by Bonnie Washuk, Sun Journal, Lewiston, Maine / May 20, 2016 0
A second grader reacts to the photograph he took of himself on his iPad. In an Auburn, Maine, school district, iPads appear better suited for younger students. Flickr/Zach Frailey

(TNS) -- AUBURN — After hearing students and teachers overwhelmingly say iPad computers are used to play games in class, while laptops are better for schoolwork, Auburn and other districts are sending iPads packing and returning to laptops.

The Maine Department of Education and Apple are offering Maine schools a “Refresh” swap offer at no additional cost.

Laptops and iPads ordered in 2013 can be returned for new and improved Apple MacBook Air laptops, which cost less than the Apple laptops three years ago.

Schools can also opt to get new iPads since both devices have been improved.

Before Auburn decided what to do, the district surveyed grades seven through 12 students and teachers, Auburn School Department Technology Director Peter Robinson told the Auburn School Committee on Wednesday night.

The results were overwhelmingly in favor of laptops: 88.5 percent of teachers and 74 percent of students favored them over iPads.

The results "are pretty darn clear," Robinson said. The survey findings "made the decision for us."

Three years ago, after seeing success with the iPads in primary grades, "I thought iPads were absolutely the right choice," Robinson said. Now, he said, iPads have shortcomings for older students.

One teacher wrote in the survey that iPads "provide no educational function in the classroom. Students use them as toys. Word processing is near to impossible … I applaud this change.”

“The iPads are largely students’ gaming devices,” another teacher wrote. “The iPads are a disaster,” another said.

“WE NEED LAPTOPS!!!” one student said, three times. “IPads are easier to play games on and get addicted to,” another said.

In the "Refresh" swap offer from the state, Auburn’s iPads are going back and 1,718 laptops will be delivered in the fall to Edward Little High School and Auburn Middle School.

Apple came up with better priced and designed laptops and iPads for Maine schools after hearing complaints about iPads, and after a number of schools opted for less expensive, non-Apple computers such as Chromebooks three years ago, Maine Learning and Technology Initiative Director Mike Muir said.

The state “underestimated how different an iPad is from a laptop,” Muir said. Laptops do better coding and programming and allow students to do more, he said. Student use of iPads could have been better if the Maine Department of Education encouraged more teacher training, Muir said.

 

A major benefit of the “Refresh” swap is that it will offer features and components that match what people have been asking for the past three years, Muir said.

Schools have until June 1 to get their orders in, he said.

The offer applies to seventh- and eighth-graders' computers, which are paid for by the state, and computers for high school students that some schools pay for as part of the Learning and Technology Initiative, which provides teacher training as well as network support, Muir said.

In Lewiston, seventh- and eighth-graders can get laptops instead of iPads in the fall, Superintendent Bill Webster said. “We have not finalized the decision, but it’s possible we’ll switch to MacBooks."

In Farmington, Mt. Blue High School bought Apple laptops in 2013 and educators are pleased with them, said the school's technology manager, Darcy Dunphy. The state's "Refresh" offer is "too good to refuse," she said. Students are getting new laptops while saving money, about $140,000 over four years, Dunphy said.

The cost of the new Apple laptop will be $217 per year per student for 2016-17, and $248 per year after that.

The Learning and Technology Initiative allows up to $254 per student for a device and teacher training to help students get the most out of technology.

“Three years ago the Apple laptop was $273 per student a year,” which meant that to stay with the Apple laptop, schools would have had to pay more, Muir said. “People chose iPads. They were within what the state would fund."

In Auburn, there will be no additional cost in 2016-17. After that, the new laptops and training will cost $30 more per student, about $30,000 a year, Robinson said.

©2016 the Sun Journal (Lewiston, Maine). Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.