Fort Bend ISD considers swapping some textbooks for iPads

January 31, 2012 7:45:27 PM PST
Out with the old and in with the new technology. One Fort Bend school district could be trading in its textbooks for iPads. But it's not a cheap transition and in a district that's been forced to lay off teachers, many are asking if this is smart spending.

If approved, this larger project would be used to boost science test scores that have been lacking district wide.

At Fort Bend ISD's Dulles High School, they're already using iPads to teach algebra.

"I can view on the screen what they're all doing so I can watch as they're going along," Teacher Megann Ollett said.

Ollett says this not only saves her time by grading tests for her but also cuts down on time she has to spend making copies of assignments which can instead be distributed digitally.

"The return on investment here is actually pretty significant," said Melissa Stadtfeld with Fort Bend ISD.

If approved at the next board meeting, Fort Bend ISD would move forward with an $18 million pilot project which would put iPads into all of the district's second through eighth grade classrooms over the next two and a half years. The funds would be used for purchase of the iPads, supporting infrastructure, software development and training.

"Why aren't they looking at e-readers?" Fort Bend ISD parent Jenny Bailey said.

Some though question whether that's money wisely spent, given teacher layoffs at Fort Bend ISD over the last two years.

"I don't think now is the right time to be rolling out a program that is going to cost this district at least $18 million when we're not even sure yet iPads can really improve science scores," Bailey said.

Administrations say the money spent on the program would come from bonds, grants and technology funds. As much as they might want to use this money to hire teachers, they say cannot.

"We're not able to use the funds in that way. In this economic climate, we don't anticipate being able to bring back the teachers we've lost in previous years," Stadtfeld said.

Initially, the iPads would be used in the classroom only. But eventually they could allow them to go home with students, just like textbooks. Again Fort Bend ISD's school board is set to vote on the iPad program in February.