Education

Hand-me-down iPads for Horry County elementary students? It’s possible

Parent advocates use of iPads in Horry classrooms

Jane Pearce, parent of two Aynor Elementary students, wants younger students to have digital devices so they are prepared for middle and high school. She advocated the use of iPads in elementary grades during a Horry County Schools technology comm
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Jane Pearce, parent of two Aynor Elementary students, wants younger students to have digital devices so they are prepared for middle and high school. She advocated the use of iPads in elementary grades during a Horry County Schools technology comm

Area elementary schoolers may be getting hand-me-down iPads next year if school officials approve purchasing new technology for middle school students.

Horry County Schools technology committee met Monday to discuss purchasing new iPads for middle school students a year earlier than planned. The devices are scheduled to be replaced every four years to keep up with system updates and improvements, according to Charles Hucks, executive director of technology.

As great of his teacher is – and we love, love, love his teacher – there’s no way he can give that much individual attention in class, so the iPads are great for student learning.

Jane Pearce, mother of two Aynor Elementary School students

If the Board of Education decides to give elementary students the iPads used by middle schoolers, the younger students will have to deal with aging equipment until their next “refresh” in 2019.

“That means those devices that were supposed to last three to four years would have to last six to seven years,” said Edward Boyd, chief officer of accountability and information.

Older technology means fewer updates – and consequently fewer programs available for elementary students, Hucks said. Though yearly software updates are a “pain” for district officials, the improvements significantly improve functionality for district staff and students.

Hucks cautioned against giving younger students old iPads because of the potential software problems, but said district staff could make do if absolutely necessary.

“I would really hate for us to be in a position like that unless we were absolutely forced to be in that position,” he said.

Even if the district doesn’t hand down the iPads, middle schoolers are still scheduled to get “refreshed” devices next year. Ray Winters, committee and board of education member, suggested purchasing a device that syncs with Google-based programs easily.

Winters said his middle school-aged daughter regularly uses Google Docs for school work, but using Google-based programs on an Apple device is a pain.

“The inoperability between the two, that presents issues in and of itself,” he said.

The meeting drew a crowd of about 40 teachers, administrators and parents, many who hope to keep digital devices in schools. Jane Pearce, parent of two Aynor Elementary School students, said she’s in favor of giving younger students a digital device in the classroom – especially because of the importance of technology in many new jobs.

“Even when people are against it, it’s not going away,” Pearce said. “It’s not stopping just because we don’t like it.”

Joe DeFeo, board chairman who is not on the technology committee, suggested buying less expensive tablets for middle schoolers. The iPads run about $600 each – which adheres to the budget approved in 2013 – but cheaper devices could save the district money.

We can get iPads for any grade, but we’re going to lose something else. I think everyone needs to keep that in mind.

Joe DeFeo, Board of Education chairman

Pearce said she’s not against using cheaper devices, as long as they’re still as workable and durable as the iPads.

“If you have to do classroom work, you want something reliable,” she said.

The technology committee will take up the issue again at its next meeting. Whatever the board of education approves, Superintendent Rick Maxey asked for enough time to train teachers and staff on a new device. Many teachers have spent months preparing lessons based on iPad programs, he said, and he wants to give everyone plenty of time to adjust those plans if middle schoolers are given another device.

“The issue is just making sure we have a transition time built in for professional development so people are ready to use it,” Maxey said.

Claire Byun: 843-626-0381, @Claire_TSN

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