McALLEN, March 7 - Lyford Consolidated Independent School District will be following suit after McAllen ISD’s successful rollout of high tech electronic devices to its students.
The school district, which is located in a tiny rural community about 16 miles north of Harlingen in Willacy County, plans to put iPads in the hands of at least 450 students by next year, according to school representatives.
“I think our principals learned about it through there. They learned through McAllen,” said Douglas Ames, math department head at Lyford High School. “We are a very rural community and spread out. A lot of our kids don’t have access to anything.
“By not providing it at the school, we are not preparing for college and the world. This will help bridge that gap,” he said.
Ames was among those present when McAllen ISD held its second TLC3 tour and demonstration on March 5. Over 61 educators, and at least 16 different institutions from Texas and Mexico participated in the event in order to gauge the district’s implementation of the mobile learning devices, which were distributed to all students and faculty in December 2012.
The tour consisted of classroom visits to district campuses, and presentations by various school personnel. MISD’s Dept. of Technology addressed visitors with a presentation by Cathey Middle School’s Tech Squad, comprised of technologically savvy students who are charged with assisting other students and adults with the district’s devices. The squad shows novice users how to navigate, download apps, and utilize the technology to its full potential.
“The superintendent and the school board have all gone through the steps,” Ames said. “We are going to go one to one next year at the high school, so we are trying to learn more and see how they are doing it here to see how it’s going to work for us.”
Earlier this year, McAllen ISD became one of the largest school districts in the nation to provide electronic devices to their students. Harking back to 2011, when the district opted to provide iPads to more than 25,000 students and faculty by 2013, the start of the district’s Transforming Learning in the Classroom, Campus and Community, or TLC3 Initiative became a $20 million endeavor meant to bring a “21st Century learning environment” into McAllen, according to District leaders.
McAllen ISD began implementation of its plan last school year. The idea is to provide a mobile-learning device, like the iPad or iPod Touch, to every child in McAllen ISD. The rollout began in spring 2012 and was completed in December.
“We’re hoping to share what we have learned on this journey. We’re hoping to create a network, as they go into their own efforts, we are able to learn from what they are doing,” said McAllen ISD Superintendent Dr. James Ponce. “What we are finding is that most of the answers are going to be organic, or district-based. We are going to need these partners to find out what the next level is for districts.”
At Lyford ISD, Ames said the next step will be to approach the community to get their feedback. Cost issues have already been addressed by the superintendent and school board, now the district will weigh the opinions of students, parents, staff and faculty.
“Right now, we have worked out with the school board, the issue of purchasing, so now it’s going to be teaching the teachers and getting the community involved,” Ames said. “We are here to see how it works. It’s one thing to say ‘we want every kid to have an iPad’ but we have to consider how that looks in the classroom, how does it work with policy, how are we going to implement that? Here, we were able to visit some classrooms and see how they are using it there.”