Dodge City to wrangle up 6,500 iPads for public school instruction

September 23, 2013
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Dodge City Public Schools, one of the largest districts in Kansas, currently supports more than 1,200 iPads for its student and teacher population. The district’s Board of Education recently voted to expand the initial deployment to 6,500 devices by 2014.

The district's iPad initiative began more than a year ago with a handful of teachers using iPads in the classroom. Additional classrooms were added to the program every few months along with ongoing teacher, administrator, and parent training throughout the process.

In September, Ross Elementary School (a mere 2 1/2 miles from the famed Boot Hill and Gunsmoke Street) piloted the 1:1 initiative, with every student having access to an iPad.

“Everybody is really excited and keep asking daily when we get the iPads,” Amy Eakin, Assistant Principal at Ross said at a recent Board of Education meeting.

The school planned two separate after-school sessions in both Spanish and English so parents can explore the devices with some hands-on stations.

The current 1,200 iPads are distributed as follows: eight carts at the Dodge City Unified School District’s  high school and middle schools and two carts at each of its elementary schools.

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More than a paper replacement

Like many districts, Dodge City reviewed their options before adopting tablet computers as the learning device of choice for their students. While saving time and money ranked high on the administration’s lists, it was the ability to use the tablets for real-time engagement that sold the District on the devices.

For example, teachers can plan curriculum for the upcoming six-week period using their iPad and then deliver student assessments online. While students take exams on an iPad or desktop computer, teachers track their accuracy in real-time on their iPads.

When exams are complete, teachers use a custom-made database developed using FileMaker software to filter test results across multiple variables such as areas of knowledge weaknesses and strengths.

Teachers then view the results in charts, graphs or lists, in order to spot trends and target students who need assistance in specific topics.

Integrating the tablets with the rest of the world

Ray Wipf, executive director of information management for the district, insisted the program needed a flexible set of software programs to ensure administrators kept tabs on the tablet computers and that they could function outside of the world of the iPad.

Wipf consolidates data from a wide variety of sources. For instance, he uploads spreadsheet-based assessment scores and reports from a statewide database that indicate student performance. He brings in student and human resources information from Skyward, the district’s Student Management System.

Standard curricula are imported from CDs, converted to PDF format and stored within the FileMaker database, eliminating the need for teachers to carry bulky binders full of paperwork. The databases are integrated with Google Apps so that teachers have easy access to resources such as instructional coaches and sample lesson plans presented as Google Forms.

The District staff uses the iPads to generate and store a wide variety of ongoing information, from administrative forms to professional development applications, as well as delivery and scoring of student achievement and standardized tests.

The iPads are managed using Casper Suite device management software in conjunction with its FileMaker database to manage and track the iPads.

"It took a lot of effort to get to where we are today with delivering assessments and working out all of the bugs," said Wipf. "I'm now looking at what we learned last year and modifying the program to make it even better."

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