TWIN FALLS • After finding out students at Twin Falls high schools won’t get mobile computing devices for another couple of years, Superintendent Wiley Dobbs is left with unanswered questions.
“We’re left scratching our heads about why we weren’t selected,” he said.
Dobbs said he’s disappointed because the district has been on the forefront of using technology in classrooms.
Under Students Come First, the state will distribute a mobile device — likely a laptop — to one-third of public high school students at a time beginning during the 2013-14 school year.
Dobbs said he’d like to work to influence state lawmakers to appropriate more money so all the school districts that are ready for mobile devices can receive them earlier.
“Our district is ready and should be given the opportunity to move forward,” he said.
Earlier this week, the Idaho State Department of Education announced the 31 school districts and charter schools that will be included in the first round of mobile devices for students.
Three south-central Idaho districts were chosen: Kimberly, Cassia County and Minidoka County.
But the Cassia and Minidoka school districts are still waiting to hear about which schools will receive the devices.
During the first round, the state set a cap of 1,124 devices per south-central Idaho district. High school enrollment surpasses that mark in Cassia County and Minidoka County.
In Cassia County, administrators submitted applications for Burley and Cassia high schools. In Minidoka County, Minico and Mount Harrison Junior/Senior high schools were selected for the application.
That’s not a problem in Kimberly, where there’s only one high school.
Superintendent Kathleen Noh said the high school already has a few sets of netbooks, but she’s looking forward to having a device for every student.
“We’re glad to be selected and anxious to make it possible for all students at all times to have the access,” she said.
The state hasn’t decided on the type of mobile device yet, but districts expect to hear back in July. Noh said it’s hard to plan for the 2013-14 school year without that information.
But more immediately on the horizon, all Idaho high school teachers will receive a mobile device this fall.
The ISDE plans to upgrade wireless Internet in school buildings and provide training for teachers on how to use the devices.
In Minidoka County, plans are already in the works to provide additional training using $10,000 in grant funding.
Sandra Miller, student achievement and school improvement director, said the plan is to offer monthly training sessions for teachers.
And then, students at some schools will have the mobile devices the following school year.
“We’re just extremely excited to get technology into the hands of students,” Miller said.
The district’s technology committee is working on new mobile device policies, which will be different for teachers and students.
The district already has a few sets of mobile devices such as iPads. Many schools also let students use their smartphones during class.
In Cassia County, Gaylen Smyer said having mobile devices for high school students will “create incredible opportunities for instruction.”
A decision will have to be made, though, about whether students can take devices home.
“We’re not sure how that’s going to shake out,” he said.
School districts that weren’t selected for the first round of mobile devices will have to wait until at least 2014.
In Wendell, Superintendent Greg Lowe said he hopes the district will be in the second round.
“We’re kind of disappointed, of course,” he said about not being selected for 2013.
But Lowe said he’s looking at the situation as an opportunity to learn from first-round schools in the area.