Superintendent John McDonald shows off one of the iPads that the district is considering for students in third through sixth grade. (Tribune photo by Gretchen Mensink Lovejoy)
Superintendent John McDonald shows off one of the iPads that the district is considering for students in third through sixth grade. (Tribune photo by Gretchen Mensink Lovejoy)
Kingsland students in kindergarten through 12th

grade should be engaged.

And wireless.

"I have to believe that this device will be a powerful learning tool that will be truly engaging to our students," said Kingsland Superintendent John McDonald, holding an iPad and addressing the Kingsland School Board of Directors during the March meeting.

"It'll allow learning anytime, anywhere and has countless uses. It's very engaging for younger students because it has a touch screen."

McDonald and the board have been examining the educational possibilities providing netbooks and iPads for students in all grades may provide, as currently, Kingsland's 60 College in the Schools (CIS) college credit-earning students each have a netbook to use during the school year to assist with completing their lessons.

"We'd like to increase that so we have 500 devices online and connected in students' hands. Our plan is to have a netbook for every student in grades nine through 12th and access to one for every student in seventh and eighth grade, as well as iPads for every student in grades third through sixth and access to one for students in kindergarten through second grade," he said.

"We're very close to one-to-one technology and that's taking a very big step for the students of Kingsland. It affects student achievement - at the high school level, it promotes problem solving and critical thinking, processing and team-working skills, and at the elementary level, it focuses on strong literacy skills and math skills."

Kingsland technology manager Robert Tieffenbacher agreed. "That's putting technology directly in the hands of our students," he said.

Presently, elementary teachers have an iPad to use in the classroom, but board members and the administration hope to extend technological interaction to students. In order for the district to proceed with its plan to increase learning through the use of technology, it must first have the infrastructure in place to support wireless Internet access.

McDonald related, "Kingsland has been very proactive ... before I came here from central Minnesota, schools in that part of the state were looking into upgrading their infrastructures. Kingsland has gotten the infrastructure in place as they've made progress so that the technological door will be open."

Tieffenbacher has worked particularly hard on advancing the district's broadband wireless access. "We had an Internet connection cable that ran between the buildings in Wykoff and Spring Valley, and we have a connection from the state, and we were able to work out through the competition and a consortium in the area for a better connection and a better pipe that runs between the schools," he noted.

Tieffenbacher explained that while the district used to receive information through a 10-megabyte-per-second connection, it now has a 50-megabyte-per-second connection, and even better, it has made those improvements with a savings of nearly $30,000 and increased bandwidth, which will allow every student who has a netbook or iPad to be online when necessary.

McDonald stated, "It's a win-win situation ... we get more and better service at a reduced cost."

Staff training sessions will be underway if the district chooses during the upcoming April 16 board meeting to proceed with its plan to engage students with iPads and netbooks.

Tieffenbacher and McDonald are excited to witness the transition, as both noted how it would "engage students" and allow them to explore education as never before.