Cobb High school requires iPad for each student

Walton High School in Cobb County has directed its students to purchase iPads for classroom instruction starting next semester, a first-of-its-kind initiative for the state’s second-largest school system.

Walton would be the only high school in Cobb expecting all its students to have the devices at school, according to Cobb schools officials. Students who choose not to buy the iPads can check them out from the school media center – though they cannot bring them home.

Most schools in Cobb — and other school districts in the metro Atlanta area — don’t require students to have their own technology devices. Most schools provide laptops, tablets and other devices available for students to share in the classroom for instructional purposes. Some schools in Cobb allow students to bring their own devices from home to use.

Each school in Cobb evaluates how technology will be used to support teaching, Cobb education officials say. Some Cobb schools have a small-scale iPad initiative for specific grade levels or groups. Those devices (iPads) were purchased with local or federal funds, not SPLOST (special-purpose local option sales tax) funds.

At Walton, there were two meetings in October to inform parents of the iPad initiative, which is not being funded by SPLOST, district officials say.

Angela Bacon, chief technology officer for Cobb schools, said she does not see Walton’s requirement as unfair to families who cannot afford to buy an iPad. “I think they (Walton High School) have their bases covered” by letting students check the devices out at school, she said.

Fulton County schools are an exception on the technology front, with leaders planning to hand out close to 60,000 mobile devices like tablets or small laptops for students to take home in an effort to boost classroom learning.

The district, which wants to equip all middle and high school students with the technology by 2017, handed out the first devices for the start of this school year to 460 eighth-graders at Autrey Mill Middle School, according to Fulton officials.

Other schools are expected to get the devices throughout the year, once they have necessary technology updates and infrastructure to support the devices. Students and teachers are also being trained in how to use the technology to improve academic achievement. Some 6,000 devices will be handed out to teachers as well.

For students in kindergarten through fifth grade, more devices will be put in classrooms. Fulton leaders have said they would like all elementary students to have access to the devices eventually, and be able to bring them home.

When Fulton school officials announced the technology rollout last year – considered the most expansive effort yet by a Georgia school district to make technology available to students — the projected cost for the devices was nearly $28.3 million. That money is expected to come from SPLOST funds, an idea that has been controversial before.

A Cobb County plan in 2005 to give students take-home laptops fell through after it spurred a lawsuit over paying for them with SPLOST funds and the superintendent resigned.