Westfall technology

Westfall adds new technology for math students.

WILLIAMSPORT - It may be surrounded by farmland, but the Westfall school district is making great strides to bring the latest technology into its classrooms.

The school board recently approved a $320,000 investment into the math department, which will overhaul K-12 instruction and allow every math student to use an iPad.

Paid from the permanent improvement fund, the upgrade was long overdue as teachers were still using textbooks that were more than 15 years old, said Cara Riddel, superintedent.

“Technology is a big component of moving forward,” she said.

Purchases included 240 new third generation 32G iPads for $158,000; 240 protective Otterbox cases for $13,000; two MacBook Pros with warranties for $4,500; software for $5,000; eight storage carts for $20,800; and eight printers for $3,600.

Instructional materials cost $42,000 for the elementary school; $31,000 for the middle school; and $42,000 for the high school.

The iPads will use the campus-wide wifi network. Technology coordinator JD Williamson said the district recently installed a new firewall with the necessary updates to handle increased traffic that will be generated by the iPads. The networks capacity will exceed 100 mb of internet bandwidth allowing the connection to be 10 times faster than it was before.

Each iPad is equipped with a protective Otterbox case and will plug into their storage carts to charge or sync.

They will sync to two MacBook Pro laptops in a program called CASPER, which allows applications to be sent and restored, even without having the iPads plugged into the carts.

Students will not be permitted to take the iPads home, Riddel said. Teachers will lock the carts, which store 30 iPads each, in their classrooms.

The students will, however, be able to access the programs from home.

The new equipment allows for continuous access and immediate feedback from teachers through online resources, such as video instruction and web tutorials.

But the district isn’t putting all its eggs in one basket.

New textbooks will be used for back-up or when a student cannot access the internet outside of school.

The textbooks will also be available online, and will update every six months, said Billy Dennis, high school principal.

According to a survey, about 84 percent of high school students have internet access at home. Middle school students responded similarly.

“Very few students don’t have access at all,” Williamson said.

Students who don’t have high-speed internet access should still be able to download the online textbook in PDF format, he added, but probably won’t be able to watch the supplemental video instruction.

For parents who may not be tech-savvy, the district is offering professional development programs to help them get familiar with the new equipment, Williamson said.

Kristen Earich, school board president, said the technology fits into the district’s strategic plan as well as the new common core standards.

A teacher herself, she said she realizes teachers will be challenged by the new equipment, but they have already begun training.

Riddel said the district will base its decisions to expand its iPad offerings to other departments depending on how the math teachers use the new equipment.

“They are the guinea pigs for the project,” she said. “We are studying how it works in math and how teachers will integrate it into their everyday instruction.”

The district already has 125 iPads that are shared among different classrooms.

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