North Carolina is providing new Apple iPads for every public school K-3 reading teacher as part of an ongoing literacy push, the state’s superintendent of public instruction announced Tuesday.
As part of the state’s Read to Achieve program, the iPads will help the 24,000 kindergarten through 3rd grade reading teachers monitor students’ reading growth and identify where each student needs help, according to the news release.
The iPads were purchased for about $6 million. The money was set aside specifically for the Read to Achieve program but has not yet been used, said Drew Elliot, communications director for the North Carolina Department of Public Instruction.
State Superintendent Mark Johnson announced in March that every district and charter school with early elementary grades would receive $200 for each K-3 reading teacher to purchase literacy materials.
Research shows that how successful iPads are in encouraging reading and improving early literacy depend on how the devices are actually being used in classrooms, but the most promising literacy practices with digital devices still rely on a lot of teacher-to-student interaction.
Ambitious efforts to put digital devices such as iPads in the hands of students and educators have not always worked out well. In the Los Angeles school system, its 1-to-1 digital device plan in 2015 was plagued with problems: the digital curriculum that was supposed to be pre-loaded on the iPads was not ready and students circumvented the security features on the devices. Plus, there was very little professional development for educators on how to use the devices for teaching and learning prior to the roll-out of the devices.
In North Carolina, the Read to Achieve legislative initiative passed in 2012, with the goal of making sure every student is reading on grade level by the end of 3rd grade. The program ensures that students be ready for 4th grade and beyond, Elliot said.
While the program has been in place for a few years and teachers have been using other devices to track students’ growth, the superintendent thought that teachers could use additional devices to boost reading levels, Elliot said. Teachers will start using the new iPads this school year.
K-3 students will work on and learn through the iPads, and teachers can monitor the students’ reading growth using an in-class diagnostic tool. The devices are supposed to help give students a more personalized learning experience, because teachers can shift how they instruct the students based on what the in-class diagnostic tool says, Elliot explained.
The Apple devices won’t be used just for students’ reading growth. The state will also provide professional development for educators to help them learn how to use their iPads for teaching purposes, such as how to create lesson plans and collaborate with other teachers, Elliot said.
Apple recently became the first U.S. public company to reach a $1 trillion valuation. While it’s behind Google and Microsoft in the education market, the company continues to lead in the worldwide market for tablets, according to a report from the market research firm IDC.
Elliot said that while there are a “variety of devices” in use in North Carolina classrooms and the Read to Achieve in-class diagnostic tool is a web-based product, their literacy consultants have found that iPads are the suitable choice for younger students and Google’s Chromebooks are more suited for older students.
“Students in [the K-3] age group already know how to use iPads,” Elliot said.