RUPERT — Minidoka County schools gave laptops to all Minico High School seniors in December, which completes — a year early — a district goal of every high school student getting their own computer.
The Minidoka County School District gives each freshman student a laptop when they come to the school to enhance engagement and promote skills like problem solving and technological proficiency, said Ashley Johnson, who oversees educational technology for the district.
It costs the district $125,000 a year to buy the laptops each year for the freshmen, Superintendent Ken Cox said.
“I think it really shows we are committed to using technology as a tool in the classroom,” Johnson said.
Nearly 250 computers were taken from the middle schools and distributed to seniors at the high school.
The district has 4,300 students and more than 5,000 iPads, desktop and laptop computers.
Getting technology into students’ hands allows teachers to change their teaching methods so they are more effective, efficient and engaging. Teachers can receive real-time data to assess students and it allows teachers to provide students immediate feedback on assignments.
One example, Johnson said, is when English students create papers using Google docs and teachers give ongoing feedback as the writing progresses.
“This is just another tool that teachers can use in the classrooms,” Johnson said.
In high school, the laptops are turned in by the students at the end of the school year to the tech department for maintenance and the same device is given back to the student each year.
Johnson said the district began the freshman program three years ago, but, this fall, officials realized that the seniors — representing one-quarter of the student population at the school — did not have laptops.
“The seniors became a priority,” she said.
Cox said it made sense to replace older laptops used in classrooms at the middle schools and give those older laptops to the seniors at the high school. The seniors will then keep the laptops after the school year.
The elementary and middle schools in the district, he said, have device carts that stay in the classrooms. All students in kindergarten through fifth grade are also assigned an iPad.
Several hundred devices are brought in each year and the older devices are rotated out of the classrooms.
It has been a priority for the district to get computers into the hands of all students as quickly as possible because of the mixed grade level classes at the high school, Johnson said.
“This means all students have the same access in class at the same time,” Cox said.
The district has steadily advanced with its technology initiative since Paul Elementary was selected as a pilot program in 2012 to provide iPads for every student. The school was completely rewired and devices purchased for each student along with other classroom equipment for teachers.
Minidoka County teachers have also undergone professional development to help them integrate technology and the devices into their curriculum.
All the classrooms in the district have uniform technology available for teachers including either a large screen television or projector and Apply TV that allows teachers to give presentations, show videos or demonstrations. Teachers also have a MacBook and iPad to help with instruction and planning. Many elementary teachers also have sound systems to amplify their voice so all students can clearly hear.
Cox said those things are all part of district classroom standards and they have to be met before other money is spent on technology.