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TTSD to issue iPads to every 6th grader in 2016-17

Move follows release of iPads to fifth grade students this year

For generations, students entering middle school in Tigard-Tualatin Schools have needed pencils, notebooks, erasers and other classroom necessities to complete their assignments.

But this fall, students entering the district’s three middle schools will have something a bit more high-tech in their pockets.

Every sixth grade student in the school district will be issued a tablet computer on the first day of class in September, according to Susan Barnard, the district’s technology director.

The tablets, most likely Apple iPads, are paid for with the last remaining dollars of the district’s technology bond voters approved in 2011.

“That’s the direction that education is going,” Barnard said. “We’re making sure that the learning doesn’t stop when the kids leave school. We want to keep the kids connected outside of the classrooms and connect them to resources and people outside of their own schools. We want to make sure that all kids have the same access and skills that they will need when they get to high school and beyond.”

The district operates three middle schools, Hazelbrook Middle School in Tualatin and Fowler and Twality middle schools in Tigard.

The plan, Barnard said, is to grow each year until every student in the district has access to new technology.

“We want to do seventh-graders next year,” Barnard said.

District officials are planning for a multi-million bond measure on the ballot this November. The district has not yet finalized what will be on that bond measure, but it’s likely to include funding for a new school on Bull Mountain as well as a rebuild for Templeton elementary School and, Barnard hopes, funding to continue adding new technology to students.

Technology more commonplace

iPads in the classrooms aren’t anything new in Tigard-Tualatin Schools.

This school year, the district issued iPads to fifth graders across the district. Two schools, James Templeton and Charles F. Tigard elementary schools, have issued iPads to every student enrolled in the school.

“It’s a big change in the classrooms,” Barnard said. “But for a lot of kids, they’re thinking ‘Finally. The adults are catching up with us and where we are.’”

Barnard said that the new technology will free up teachers to experiment with new forms of instruction.

“The structure of the classroom hasn’t changed much over the decades,” Barnard said. “Think back to when we were in school, or our parents — it’s largely the same today, but the teacher doesn’t have to be at the front of the classroom giving a monologue anymore. The potential for teacher collaboration or student collaboration is huge.”

Barnard said she envisions every student from kindergarten through middle school getting some sort of technology in their classrooms, but said she wasn’t sure if that would be the right fit for high school students.

“We have to have a discussion with our high school teachers to see how this fits with the high schools. It’s the right tool for what we wanted to do moving into the middle schools.”

Barnard said that between now and September, the district is working to get teachers comfortable with the devices.

“We want to get teachers to buy into this idea that this technology isn’t going away,” Barnard said. “It’s a new way to invest in our kids ... Teachers are a great resource in the classroom, but there are other ways to attain knowledge. There are other ways to get information with the same rigor and standards, but also provide a flexibility that teachers haven’t had. It’s very exciting. It’s a little scary for some teachers, but others say, ‘When can we get that in here?’ It’s a really good time for us to do this. A couple of years ago, I don’t think we were ready for something like this, but now we are.”

Whether classrooms employ iPads, blackboards or abacuses, the important thing is that students are learning, Barnard said.

“We always want to start with student achievement,” she said. “Our business is to make sure that students are learning. iPads are just another tool on teachers’ belts that they can draw to make students more engaged. It gives them access to things outside of a textbook and is so much more engaging and up to the minute.”