BY EDMOND ORTIZ: SEPTEMBER 10, 2014
Edison High School sophomores went to the campus cafeteria for an evening gathering Sept 3. When they came out, they went home with an iPad.
Sophomores across the San Antonio Independent School District (SAISD) received an iPad last week thanks to the district's collaboration with the federal program, GEAR UP.
GEAR UP stands for Gaining Early Awareness and Readiness for Undergraduate Programs. It's a mechanism that provides six- and seven-year grants to education/community partnerships and states to raise the number of students who are prepared to enter and succeed in postsecondary education.
Armed with a $27.5-million, seven-year grant, San Antonio ISD's GEAR UP cohort model has been following this year's sophomores since they were seventh-graders.
The program will work with these students district wide through graduation and monitor their progress in their first year of college.
SAISD spent $1.9 million to acquire iPads for about 3,600 students enrolled as sophomores this year district wide.
Francisco Aranda, a district college readiness coach assigned to Edison, led the first campus training session —the first of many — for Edison's Class of 2017 members.
Students and their parents and guardians listened as Aranda explained the iPad's purpose. It's primarily a tool to enhance their learning experience for their remaining years in high school.
“We're not giving you iPads for you to get on FaceTime or YouTube. It's for you to do your chemistry and world history,” he said. He emphasized two subjects that will get extra scrutiny this year.
Students must bring their fully charged iPad every school day. When the sophomores are on campus, they will be able to access the district's wireless network.
Random checks will be conducted via a device management system to ensure students are not using their iPad inappropriately.
The district spent $93,000 on software to aid in device monitoring, filtering and classroom interaction between the teacher and students.
“But once you go to McDonald's, home, wherever off campus after school, you'll be off our network. I won't be able to monitor what you do,” Aranda said.
He added that support from parents and guardians is critical toward ensuring students care for their iPad responsibly.
“Remember, your digital footprint is forever,” he added. The students can keep the iPad after high school graduation.
While many teenagers these days are familiar with tablets and even have one at home, others don't have access to one.
“I think it's a great resource. Through programs like this, we're able to provide students an avenue to higher education,” Aranda said later of GEAR UP.
Josh Stone Jr., 15, owns a white iPad mini. Now he has a black iPad.
“I think this will help me in class, to do homework and assignments with the Internet provided at school,” Stone said. “It's a chance to do something good in the Class of 2017.
Alex Castillo, 15, did not have an iPad at home until last week.
“I think this is good because everyone will have the same iPad. It'll help in the long run,” she said.