Madison School District goal: computer device for every child - WKOW 27: Madison, WI Breaking News, Weather and Sports

Madison School District goal: computer device for every child

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MADISON (WKOW) -- Madison School District officials are proposing to equip every student - even those in kindergarten - with a mobile, computer device within the next five years.

"I don't think it's too bold," Schools superintendent Jennifer Cheatham tells 27 News.

Cheatham says the proposed, phased-in program would cost $31 million to complete by 2019. The proposal calls for students to receive a tablet device in grades K-2, a tablet with keyboard for grades 3-5, and a lap top device for middle and high schoolers.

Cheatham says forty school districts in Wisconsin are looking at similar, technological expansions.

Cheatham tells 27 News providing all school children with mobile, computer devices will permit coordinated learning across grade levels, and better prepare students.

Cheatham points out the devices provide the opportunity to address the so-called digital divide by ensuring even students whose families lack the means to have computer devices at home will have access to them through school attendance.

Cheatham says computer applications for the mobile devices - some of them available at no-cost - will address other educational barriers. "Students can instantaneously translate text into their home language on a tablet. (You) Couldn't do that, if you were reading a traditional textbook."

Cheatham stresses supplying school children with mobile computer devices is intended to complement textbooks and other instructional material.

But one school district in southern Wisconsin has shifted funds from textbook purchases to ramp-up a program of providing computer devices to middle schoolers.

Monroe Middle School assigned iPads to every sixth grader in the 2012-2013 school year. This school year, the program has been expanded to include all of the school's more than five hundred students in grades six, seven and eight.

"It puts students more in charge of their own learning," middle school math teacher Charlie Baumann tells 27 News.

Baumann assigns problem-solving work to be carried out on the iPad. Students also track other class projects and homework assignments on their devices.  School officials say parents have computer log-ins, and can check on their students' progress.

"Really looking at the digital citizen...it's important we involve them with these tools," Monroe Middle School principal Lynne Wheeler says.

"I think it's really a great privilege that we have, and it helps with everything through the day," 12-year old student Maha Mustafa tells 27 News. "It keeps you on track."

The Monroe School District purchased its mobile computer devices for students, while Madison's plan calls for leasing them. Monroe's technology upgrade was funded in part by a corporate grant. Cheatham says the parent-teacher organizations of individual Madison schools have already been involved in fundraising to increase technological capabilities for teachers, staff and students.

In Monroe, only middle schoolers are issued mobile, computer devices, although schools superintendent Cory Hirsbrunner says providing devices to high schoolers is also being explored.

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