Why does every incoming middle school student need his/her own iPad?

Simply stated, with the iPad, classroom walls are virtually removed. Both inside and outside of the school building, each student can seamlessly maintain and extend the learning process. Additionally, each student will have access to his/her own particular device and be able to customize it based on his/her own individual educational and organizational needs and preferences.

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The device itself allows students to engage learning in a 21st-century context. The iPad is a device that is:

  • Connected: The Internet and its expansive information is a touch away.

  • Mobile: Learning, information, and communication is possible any time, anywhere.

  • Collaborative: Social media enables students to join global discussions.

  • Resourceful: Students can build their own library of thousands of resources such as online books, textbooks, and audio and video files – all at their fingertips in a wide range of engaging formats.

  • Ubiquitous and Equitable: All students have access to the same resources of everyone else around the world.

  • Personal: It is a tool that allows for individual customization, integration, and responsibility.

Why does the device have to be an Apple product, and specifically, an iPad?

By requiring all students to use an Apple product, the educational experiences can be shared by everyone. The receipt and submission of material can be accomplished more seamlessly, as well. We are strongly recommending the iPad over an Apple laptop because of the app features associated with the iPad. MacBooks and other laptops will not support the app features. While there can be some alternative projects and assignments given, this will significantly limit and change the learning experience the student receives and, at times, could be frustrating.

The iPad is currently the most versatile and highly effective product for what we hope to achieve in the classroom. Additionally, the long battery life, touchscreen format, and vibrant app developer make this product appealing. Finally, our teachers and students have been using Apple products for a number of years. Utilizing the mobile device created by Apple streamlines the training and implementation of the technology within classrooms.

What happens when the next version of the iPad emerges or something better than the Apple iPad comes out?

There is no doubt Apple will continue to roll out newer versions of iPads regularly. We will not ask families to upgrade every year a new model is launched. Any required iPad model upgrades would be passed along to an incoming 7th grade class.

It is a common perspective that most laptops begin to wear down and/or fall behind technologically after approximately three to four years. It appears that the iPad is similar to the laptop in this way. It is likely that families will need to consider if a newer model of iPad would be necessary for their student after three to four years of use.

There may eventually be products that are or will be better than Apple’s. However, as long as Apple remains one of the forerunners in technological advancement, we will not need to change the product of choice. If its products are significantly surpassed in an educationally meaningful way, we would consider switching a class of incoming 7th grade students to the new device at that time. For us, the device is just that: a tool to be used in the service of teaching and learning. The education must always come before any particular educational tool, whether a desk, textbook, ruler, or an iPad.

Are families paying for the iPad?

Yes. This is because the iPad should, ideally, be personalized by each family to be an effective and positive tool for both home and school life.

Can a student download games or social media apps on his/her iPad? Will the school monitor what is being downloaded to the iPad?

As of the fall of 2016, students will no longer be allowed to have games or social media on their iPad.  At the completion of our three year iPad pilot program, we gathered feedback from parents, teachers, and students. While the vast majority of feedback was positive, distractibility was the primary concern raised. So in an effort to support families and learning, the iPad must be for school use only. It is important to us to partner well with families and to respond to their concerns. While the school will not be actively monitoring the apps on each students iPad, students will be held accountable for having unapproved apps on their iPad should they be discovered.

How will the school handle the theft or physical damage of a device?

The iPad is your family’s personal device. It will be the student’s responsibility to ensure its protection and security. When purchasing the iPad, insurance against damage is available. Additionally, there are apps that will track and locate misplaced or taken devices. iPad covers and protectors are also available for purchase.

How will you make sure that students don’t spend too much time using technology and social media?

We recognize that technology and social media can become an excessive, even obsessive, element of life for anyone. We will make it our job to educate students about these pitfalls. We want students to become wise, godly users of their computing devices. Our teachers are vigilant and thoughtful about how to use the right tool at the right time, but this must be a partnership. Westminster cannot set family rules and parameters for technology and media in the homes, nor can our voice be as strong or impactful as the parents’ voice in the life of their child. Having a balanced and biblical view of life in regard to technology will require parents and the school to work together. We believe God will work through our committed partnership.

What are the learning benefits of the iPad?

With the iPad, focused learning can happen all the time, in all places, with the most current information. Students will have a wide variety of learning tools available for use at all times (e.g., note-taking ability, calendar and planner, word processor, presentation applications, videoconferencing, file storage/management, etc.). Students will also have access to instant feedback through both formative and summative assessments. The availability of this data will enable teachers to develop more focused, individualized, and collaborative learning experiences for students (e.g., using applications such as Pages, ePub, Notability, iBook, iMovie, Keynote, etc.). Furthermore, teachers will be able to upload documents and tasks to iBooks, and students will be able to download them onto their iPads to better manage all of their materials in one central location.

What kinds of activities are prohibited in the classroom?

The general rule is simple: the student should be using the iPad productively and for his/her learning. If an activity does not fall into this category as determined by the teacher, it is not to be done. As you might suspect, activities like playing games, using Facebook/social media, watching videos, or taking pictures outside of a teacher’s lesson plan would not be allowed.

Are there system safeguards and filters at the school to keep out inappropriate content?

Yes. We will continue to use the same safeguards and filters that we currently use to protect students from inappropriate content. Please note that this is why it’s important that you purchase an iPad with Wi-Fi connectivity. We strongly recommend you not buy a model that offers 3G connectivity. While the school has control over the Wi-Fi network and can, for the most part, safeguard against inappropriate web access, we cannot filter or control the 3G/4G access. NO filter, including ours at Westminster, is guaranteed to be 100% effective. We recommend that you occasionally review the content on your student’s iPad (such as Internet history and messaging) and other Internet devices.