There's a technical and digital literacy that is just as important for kids to have. Kids have to be able to access information and communicate with the outside world digitally. —Ryan Hansen
CLEARFIELD — Students scribbled numbers on a piece of paper and scrambled to work their calculators to find an answer before their North Davis Junior High classmates.
Students submitted their answers through some of the 1,100 iPads now at the school, and the teacher immediately read out names of those who answered correctly. They in turn helped explain the equation to other students.
The iPads are part of the school's 1:1 iPad initiative, a program that now gives every student in the school daily access to an iPad.
"In order for us to provide an equitable experience for our kids in Utah, compared to other states, we have to allow them to have access to the internet," junior high Principal Ryan Hansen said.
The iPads for students and teachers, as well as training and support for the electronics in the school cost about $1.2 million. Half of the total was paid for by Governor's Office of Economic Development.
"Change is inevitable, but progress is optional," Vincent Mikolay, a spokesman for the governor, said. The iPads will give students a chance to learn how to adapt in the workforce.
Technology in the schools became a focus of the recently completed legislative session. House Speaker Becky Lockhart's vision for education included The Public Education Modernization Act, or HB131, which called for $50 million in one-time funding from the state's Education Fund and an additional $150 million in ongoing funding from the state's General Fund.
The bill failed to pass when lawmakers objected to the price tag for an untested program and sought to keep funding on the measure below $30 million in a pilot program. But Lockhart did not support the measure in that form.
Mikolay said the governor's office wants to have a credible workforce through education by providing them with tools necessary to be successful.
He said for Utah's economy to stay competitive, the students need to be cutting edge and "not only understand the subjects they're learning about, but how to be adaptive in the workforce."
The rest of the iPads were paid for from other sources including Title I funds and a grant from the GEAR UP program. The grant is designed to help students graduate from high school and be successful in their postsecondary education.
"That math classroom, that's what we need to see," said Eric Packenham, program director of the Utah State University STARS! GEAR UP.
Hansen said his students will have to compete in a technology-driven environment when they leave the junior high, so that is the kind of environment he wants to create for his students now.
"There's a technical and digital literacy that is just as important for kids to have," Hansen said. "Kids have to be able to access information and communicate with the outside world digitally."
One student, Alyssa Caldwell, said the iPads allow her to communicate much easier and more quietly with her classmates. She said she uses her iPad in class about every other day.
Another student, Maia Wimmer, said she uses her iPad in her geography class every day. She said students are constantly on their iPads, doing school work and sometimes playing games and taking "selfies."
"Taking selfies, that's a big one," Caldwell added.
Samuel Souza said that, with his iPad, he is easily able to share class notes or materials with his fellow students.
"If Utah chooses to be slow in providing the opportunity to kids, it only hurts our kids," Hansen said, in support of the technology. "They fall further and further behind."