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DHS social studies dept. seeks a tablet for each student

Dickinson High School students may be able to take advantage of tablet technology in their social studies classes next year, if a $113,000 proposal to purchase 150 Microsoft Surface table computers and needed accessories is approved.

The Dickinson Public School Board gave an informal blessing to the high school's social studies department for the implementation of tablet computers into regular studies at its regular meeting Tuesday at the Central Administrative Building.

"We have a real problem with apathy in our kids right now," said Brian Ham, social studies department chairman. "There's a real big problem with kids just doing work to do the work and not doing quality work. They're not engaged, they're not focused; they're just kind of going through the motions."

The department discovered that students were more engaged when classes were taken to computer labs during class, he said.

"That's hard to do in our current setting because with the labs that are available now, we might get in there once, maybe twice a week if you're lucky," Ham said.

It also got work done, as students do not do homework, he said.

"Even though they have Internet access at home, they don't do homework," Ham said. "Most of the time it's like pulling teeth, but if you have it engaged in the classroom where they can do it there, you're going to get some results."

Students in high school have grown up with technology, said Melanie Kathrein, Dickinson Public Schools director of curriculum and professional development.

"Many of those are students that probably have had a cellphone in their hand since they were in second grade," she said.

Using technology in the classroom fits the students' style, Ham said.

The tablets at this time would be used strictly in the social studies classroom as a pilot program, he said. The school would have to purchase a tablet for every student to implement a true one-to-one program. The proposal is to purchase 150 tablets so all social studies classes can use them at the same time. There are five teachers in the department.

Other districts in North Dakota have bought tablets for each student and then utilized digital materials, such as text books, Kathrein said. The pilot program, if it succeeds, could be a step in that direction.

The social studies department would like to implement the program next fall, and would start training as soon as possible, as well as work during summer if needed, Ham said.

"We figured we would band together and learn from each other," he said. "We're already kind of doing some of these things."

The Board Budget Committee will make the decision to order the tablets, chairwoman Leslie Ross said.

The department has also submitted an application to the Dickinson Public Schools Foundation to help cover the cost of the tablets and accessories, and has worked with Best Buy to help lower the cost of some of the accessories. The price of each tablet, $539.10, is set by Microsoft.

In addition to the tablets, the department will need five wireless access points, a wireless controller, battery backup, 2,000 feet of cable, warranties for the tablets and a cart for charging in each of the five classrooms.

Katherine Grandstrand
I graduated from Bemidji State University in 2007 with a bachelor's degree in mass communcations, from Columbia College Chicago in 2009 with a master's degree in journalism.  
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