JOPLIN, Mo. —
Students' physical loads may get lighter as school districts expand the use of iPads or other tablet PCs, but the burdens may get heavier.
Joplin eighth-graders will receive iPads as part of their curriculum this year, said Klista Rader, director of information and implementation technology for Joplin Schools. As part of a preparation program for receiving laptops upon graduation into high school, district eighth-graders will use the tablet PCs for school assignments.
The devices are part of participation in a program called Project Red, which teaches students about using technology in real-life situations. The district spent almost $175,000 on tablet PCs for the program.
"We find that when they go into high school, they are struggling with all the changes," Rader said. "On top of that, there are no textbooks in high school, because of the laptops. So we wanted to provide something to help ease students into that transition."
Joplin students and parents will get introduced to the iPads during an open house on Aug. 20. And parents will be a big part of making sure that students are taking care of the expensive, fragile pieces of equipment.
In addition to iPads, each student will receive a rubberized case that should protect the device from most accidents.
"We have tested the cases to make sure they can sustain drops, or if they get stepped on," Rader said. "Still, it's not 100 percent. Kids will be taught to carry them in backpacks and other safety things."
The cases completely surround the device, and students will be told to never remove the case, even for cleaning purposes.
If a student in any district is issued a device without a case, then one should be purchased as soon as possible. A case can be an effective insurance policy that protects the device from bumps and drops.
A case may eliminate the need for heavy-duty cleaning -- the cases on Joplin's devices are meant to never be removed -- but if the screen is touched directly without any sort of protector or shielding, then cleaning the screen will be necessary.
Tablet screens are treated to be oleophobic -- in other words, the oils that come from fingertips won't permanently stain the glass and can be wiped up. Keeping screens clear with proper cleaning will keep them functional for longer periods of time. All it takes is a soft cloth.
- Avoid using any liquid cleaners. They may contain chemicals that strip away the screen's oleophobic nature.
- Turn the screen off by placing the device in sleep mode. You want to be able to touch the whole screen without starting programs or moving icons.
- Remove the device from its case and check for large particles or debris. Use compressed air to remove the bits, or just blow on the screen. Whether you use compressed air or your lungs, blow on the screen at an angle so the debris has somewhere to go.
- Using a clean microfiber cloth, wipe the screen gently in a circular motion until all smudges are gone. Any cloth that is soft enough for eyeglasses is soft enough for the device. Before using that cloth, shake it to make sure it's not hanging on to debris. One piece of trash can turn your soft towel into an abrasive, screen-scarring nightmare.
Parents should familiarize themselves with the device. Tablet PCs are not as versatile as their desktop counterparts: There is usually only one way to accomplish certain tasks, and opening and closing programs can be tricky without the help of a mouse and obvious close boxes. Additionally, apps are downloaded through only one or two different programs.
Rader said that any house rules that have been established for other devices, such as cellphones or laptops, should also apply to the school-issued tablets. Software and usage will be monitored through a special program used by the school.
The apps that can be downloaded to the school's laptops are limited, but students will have a unique Apple ID that they can use to download apps. That means parents should check their children's devices in order to ensure house rules are being met.
"(The monitoring program) can catch some of those things, but others might not be caught, because they aren't in a list of severely inappropriate ones," Rader said. "My advice is to sit down and go through it every single day. That's what I do with my daughter's iPhone."
Both students and parents will sign a contract governing how the device will be used, Rader said. The contract covers everything from how it is used to what happens if it is damaged.
Technicians at each school will be able to make repairs to devices. But if a device is broken because of negligent behavior, the student and parents may find themselves responsible for the bill.
"It depends on how the damage occurred," Rader said. "If it truly doesn't work, we can swap it out. Each school's building tech has all the needed certifications, so they can get parts and do most repairs."