MMSD technology proposal would give all students tablets

By: Madeline Anderson Email
By: Madeline Anderson Email

Published: Tuesday, Jan. 14, 2014 --- 9:40 p.m.

A $30 million technology plan would greatly upgrade classrooms' computers and digital devices throughout the Madison Metropolitan School District.

If approved, Superintendent Jennifer Cheatham's proposal would gradually equip every student with their own tablet-like device by the 2018-2019 school year.

More than a year has passed since Huegel kindergarten teacher Leah Nelson received 30 iPads for her students.

"I never touched an iPad before I got the grant," she said.

Now, she can't imagine her classroom without them. "I'm teaching other teachers how to use it."

The touch screens are thanks to a grant Nelson applied for in 2012, designed to encourage teachers to incorporate them into their curriculum.

"I can individually set them up for each kid, so they work at their level," Nelson said. "I can differentiate for kids. I can really be involved with the parents too, sending the parents stories the kids have written."

But with only an additional 26 iPads for the school's 500 or so kids, Nelson's on board with the superintendent's new effort to make technology a priority when it comes to learning.

"I'm really excited to get the ball rolling and get our school district caught up with other school districts on technology," she said.

"It's not a matter of whether we need to do it, it's how we do it," said MMSD school board president Ed Hughes.

He and the other board members heard the details of the plan Monday night. Hughes says currently the district spends $1.5 million each year on technology. Under the proposal, that amount would increase to $4 million next year, and would eventually sit at $7 million.

"The superintendent tells us that we can pay for the first year of the program within the parameters of our existing budget without having an excessive property tax increase for next year," he said.

The board is also looking at other ways to cover the cost of the technology proposal, and they'd like the public's input. Community members are invited to a meeting January 22 at Memorial High School at 5:30 pm.

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