CPS is working to improve district iPad usage

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COLUMBIA - As the Columbia Public School District heads into summer vacation, district administration is working on new ways to improve the use of iPads in the district.

Dr. Chris Diggs, director of technological services for CPS, said the district is focused on making the iPad usage more beneficial for students by limiting the range of Internet access, both at home and at school.

Diggs said the district is currently working on making sure the technology is just as useful at home as it is at school. As of now, students' Internet use, on district-provided technology, is only limited when students are at school. When they are at home, their Internet use is only limited by parental restrictions.

However, Diggs said the district is working on finalizing a plan that would allow for Internet usage, on district equipment, to be limited no matter where the technology is being used.

"We are in the process of completing a purchase for a mobile device management solution that will allow us to put a little more control on them when they're outside the district, as well," Diggs said.

She said the move to iPads has really changed the idea of the "traditional classroom." She said the iPads are like an extension of school, they shrink the time and space between students and teachers.

"Improved communication and improved instruction, in terms of being able to meet students needs where they are at," Diggs said.

Karen Hajicek, parent of CPS students with iPads, said she thinks the integration of the iPad into the district can be more beneficial than traditional textbooks but it is all determined by how students are allowed to use the technology.

"I don't know if I have a preference between the two," Hajicek said. "I think probably technology opens a few more doors than the textbooks do. It just comes down to how the teachers use it."

Even though she thinks the iPads could benefit students learning, Hajicek said there should be some limits put on these devices to keep students from getting distracted.

"I could see where, if teachers aren't putting or the district doesn't put restrictions or limitations, you know, on the use or on what the capability of the technology is, I could see that being a problem," Hajicek said.

Now that the district allows students to take the tablet with them, whether they are at school or not, Diggs said the district is working on new ways to limit the number of distractions students face while using the iPad. However, she said the process of limiting what sites students can and can't be on is not something new to the district.

"Any kind of barrier like that, actually, we've been doing since way back when the Internet exploded," Diggs said.

Even though the district does block some sites at school, Diggs said there are some students that are very smart with technology and can find their way around the barriers.

"We have to be careful about making sure that people know that just because they're there doesn't mean they're fool proof and really smart kids can get around them," Diggs said.

She said the goal is to use the students' knowledge of the technology to further their educational experience.

"Our challenge is to channel that intelligence and that energy into positive ways," Diggs said.

She said the district is continuing to look for ways to ensure the iPad is used in a proper manner, both inside and outside of school.