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Do Your Homework Before Taking the iPad Leap

It’s important for parent groups get answers to some key questions before making the purchase.

by Rose Hamilton


Judging by sales numbers, at least, the iPad is now the technology to have in schools. Apple sold more than one million to the U.S. education market in the third quarter of its current fiscal year alone. Many PTOs and PTAs are taking out their checkbooks for these hand-held devices, so, should you?

These tablets definitely add to a classroom with their array of educational apps and easy to use video, photo, and music functions. But it’s still important for parent groups get answers to some key questions before they proceed.

What will the school do with them?
“You want to make sure you don’t fall into the trap where there’s no plan in place of how it’s going to be used,’’ says Eric Sheninger, principal at New Milford High School in New Milford, N.J. and a social media blogger and author.

Instead of getting dazzled by the iPad’s potential, check with your administration and talk to the school’s technology specialist to figure out if there is a need for iPads. Ask how they envision these tablets being used in the classroom and look for specifics in their answers.

Who will take care of them?
Find out if your school’s technology team has the bandwidth, as techies say, to handle supporting a new device. The iPad may be known for ease-of-use, but there are bound to be technical issues, even on small matters such as charging the battery, for which students and teachers will need help.

Where’s the money coming from?
Evaluate how to best fund an iPad purchase, keeping in mind they aren’t cheap and Apple doesn’t haggle, although it does provide educational discounts. Currently, iPads range from $400 to more than $800 per device.

Karen Weaver, a board member of the PTA at Redding Elementary in Redding, Conn., says her group held a dedicated fundraising effort last year that included a challenge grant. She and her husband matched the first $1,000 raised with an in-kind donation. Also, the local education foundation donated $500.

The PTA also did a companion Spirit Wear fundraiser, creating an “exclusive’’ Redding tie-dyed T-shirt, that raised $3,000 for the iPad fund. In total, the group raised $9,000 and purchased 22 iPads.

 Who should make the purchase?
Parent groups should check with their school or district, because many have specific guidelines on technology purchases. In some school districts, technology purchases are required to go through the central office.

In the case of the Redding PTA, it opted to make the purchases through Apple’s education group and received a 5% discount on each bundle of 10 it purchased.

Other parent groups find donating money for iPad purchases makes more sense. That’s how the District 67 PTA in Morton Grove, Ill., handled it. This parent group, which represents both the Hynes Elementary and Golf Middle Schools, donated $23,000 last year for iPads.

It decided to donate the money rather than make the purchase because the school would get a better deal by not paying sales tax, says Chris Hoffman, PTA president.  “Also, we decided it made more sense for the technology person to order it,’’ Hoffman adds. “We might not have known exactly what to order.’’

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