BENNINGTON -- The Bennington School District is expanding its one-to-one computing this spring with the lease of 170 KUNO Tablet computers for children in grades three through five.
The three-year lease approved by the school board last week will cost the district $45,000 for each of the next three years, after which BSD may purchase the tablets for $1.
The purchase is another step toward a local, statewide and national movement to expand one-to-one computing in every classroom. BSD schools equipped fifth grades with one-to-one netbook computers a few years ago but have not expanded to lower grades as some area school districts have.
The 170 KUNO Tablets that run on the Android operating system are not enough for all students in the three grades. Southwest Vermont Supervisory Union Technology Director Frank Barnes said the idea is to allow principals at each school to assign the tablets to classes as they see fit. If tablets are assigned to fifth grade classes the older netbooks will be distributed to other classes.
The KUNO Tablet, which is similar to the more recognizable Apple iPad, comes with a stylus pen so students can write on the computer screen, as well as a connectable full-size keyboard and case.
The district awarded a bid for the computers to CORE ECS, which was one of four companies to respond to BSD’s request for a proposal for 170 tablet computers. Apple was the lowest bidder, although Barnes said it was for the iPad 2, which is two generations behind the newest iPad model.
School board members questioned Barnes about choosing a much lesser known company over Apple, but Barnes said he was confident in the recommendation he made based on extensive research and conversation with a technology specialist in Indiana whose schools use KUNO Tablets.
"I’ve read some articles in some national journals about this company saying things such as, finally a real competitor for Apple and that type of thing," Barnes told the board.
The expectation is for students to have the ability to take the tablets home after they and parents sign an agreement to treat the equipment properly. If something does happen to the computers Barnes said insurance will cover against theft, vandalism, and damage.
The computers are expected to be in classrooms in time for the third trimester this school year.
"The company will give professional development to the teachers that are going to be using them before they get sent out so the teachers will ... have a good solid foundation of what to do before they get them," Barnes said.
Once in the class, the tablets will be able to be equipped with Google applications and access to CurriculumLoft, a cloud storage system where teachers in the district and across the world can access curriculum shared by other teachers. With a click of a button a teacher can then transfer a lesson to each student’s tablet that they can do even without Internet access.
The endless applications, ability to take photos and videos, and the portability, Barnes said, makes the learning opportunities limitless.
"Say you partnered up with a school from New Mexico and they were going on a field trip ... they could stream video back to your class and the teachers could share information," Barnes said.
The tablets will be available to take the Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium standardized tests on. By as early as 2016 a portion of those tests will require students to write on tablet computers.
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