iSchool program

Seventh-graders Sara Biggers, April Bearid and Cat Mussared get familiarized by setting their homescreen picture on their iPad minis, which have been issued to every student at Saddle Ridge Elementary and Middle School. (Messenger photo/Matt Ledger)

Pie-eyed students beamed with a sense of joy usually reserved for Christmas or birthday celebrations as teachers handed out more than 450 iPad minis at Saddle Ridge Elementary and Middle School on Sept. 5.

That these technology tablets were chosen over textbooks illustrates the commitment of the school’s selection as the first participant in the iSchools Initiative.

Travis Allen, the 22-year-old founder of the initiative, spoke about the program during the school’s first assembly, with several guests interested in the program.

“I want to show the world how mobile devices — like your iPads — could transform education,” Allen said.

State school superintendent John Barge attended the iSchool launch, sharing with the “technology-native” students that computers didn’t exist in the classroom when he was a student.

“When I was in high school we didn’t have computers at all,” Barge said.

The advent of computers and changing technologies have changed and continues to change everything in society, he said.

“We really have to change the way we approach education, because with these devices many of these children can get answers to questions probably quicker than you can ask them,” Barge said.

Representatives from Blue Ribbon Schools, ShareFare, AirWatch, Promethean, Le Croy Industries, Anderson School District 1 from South Carolina and Educational Network of America also attended the daylong seminar.

Third- through eighth-grade students will be able to take their iPad mini’s home following a two-week period of familiarization and training with their teachers. The school system has insured the tablets and is requiring students keep their devices in a school-supplied Otterbox protective case.

The iPads feature geo-location tracking in the event a device is lost or stolen and Apple deactivate a device in the event of a reported theft.

“I think it is awesome that we have a school system that is taking this on as a pilot project,” Barge said. “We’re excited to see what they do with it. We are going to partner with them and we are going to take this message across the state to other communities, because this is the direction that learning is going.”