- Associated Press - Saturday, August 23, 2014

FREMONT, Neb. (AP) - Their fingers at the ready, Bell Field math students eagerly waited for the next question to be projected on a screen at the front of the room.

Within seconds of appearing, all 24 fourth-grade students responded to the problem on an iPad, had it “graded” and received additional instruction from their teacher to reinforce the material they were studying.

The class, co-taught by Julie Muller and Shanna Zordell, is one of the first classes in the new school year to integrate iPad technology and classroom curriculum, but with the rolling out of the district’s large-scale technology initiative, similar scenes will be commonplace in the coming weeks, the Fremont Tribune reported (http://bit.ly/1oAoIFx ).

That initiative involves putting 720 iPads in the hands of kindergarten through sixth-grade students in classrooms throughout the district.

The technology initiative began about a year ago when Fremont Public Schools made plans to purchase 360 iPads for Johnson Crossing Academic Center. The Fremont Public School Foundation then launched its iGive for iPads campaign to raise funds for an additional 360 iPads to be used at elementary buildings throughout the district.

The campaign got off to successful start with a $50,000 donation from the Fremont Area Community Foundation, and a $27,500 donation from First State Bank and Trust. By February the foundation announced it had met its goal, and raised more than $250,000.

While the campaign was still ongoing, the district began training teachers on how to use iPads in the classroom, and asked for input as to what applications might align with curriculum.

Darin Kelberlau, executive director of Curriculum, Assessment and Instruction, said the district upgraded its wireless network from a coverage model to more of a saturation model in preparation of more students using the devices. Additionally, he said the district is using a device management system that will ensure consistent settings on the iPads based on grade levels and building needs, and allow approved applications to be installed and managed remotely.

“For example we could turn off game center, or in-app purchases, so we don’t have someone going in and doing in-app purchases and we get the bill from Apple,” Kelberlau said. “This will allow us to do that remotely and not have to go physically touch everything.

“I don’t think there’s a better device out there that allows for creativity and individualized learning, whether you’re well above grade-level or well below - or right on grade-level,” he added. “Obviously we want to focus on literacy and math, but we also acknowledge creativity and problem solving can be fostered through iPads.”

Kelberlau said the iPad initiative will help move the district forward as it continues to implement and upgrade its use of technology to enhance curriculum.

“I was really humbled by all the community support and just how fast the leadership team from the foundation moved it forward,” he said. “It’s going to be so good for our kids, especially the ones who wouldn’t have technology access at home. This will provide them with some great tech skills and help level the playing field within the district.”

David Pinkall, executive director of the Fremont Public School Foundation, said the foundation’s mission is to support the district and ensure it keeps pace with other districts.

“This is what we do, we try to do things that are going to support our system and make it better,” he said. “The whole arena of technology is a difficult one for our school system to keep up on. This is a great thing that the foundation can do to help keep us up with those other districts that we are compared to. We want our kids to have advantages they have.”

Pinkall said although the fundraising campaign is complete, the foundation will continue to work with the district to improve technology.

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