Hoover classrooms to get iPads, Nooks

Published 2:07 pm Friday, June 22, 2012

By AMY JONES / Associate Editor

HOOVER — After the success of a pilot program that put Nook e-readers in the hands of Hoover elementary school students, Hoover City Schools is expanding the pilot program to include 50 more elementary classrooms, as well as the middle and high schools.

Ron Dodson, assistant superintendent of instruction for Hoover City Schools, said he hopes by Labor Day, every system elementary school “will have at least a couple of” classrooms involved in the program, and each middle school will have Nooks available for at least one grade level.

Spain Park High School and Hoover High School will also get iPads for all 12th graders, Dodson said.

Ron Dodson

The pilot program began in the fall of 2011 at Gwin and Green Valley elementary schools, and was quickly regarded as an “extraordinary” success, he said.

“That’s part of what spurred us on to expand the pilot so rapidly. No negatives whatsoever,” he said. “Everybody was engaged in the class. Parents were very happy.”

In order to develop the pilot program for the high schools, members of the Hoover City Schools leadership team traveled to Westlake High School in Austin, Texas to see the school’s iPad program.

“We saw they had only been doing this for a year, and the individualization that was possible, the kids (were) able to individualize their learning and expressed what they’d learned in different ways,” Dodson said. “We want kids to be able to find information from different sources. We want them to express what they’ve learned in different ways. We felt like the iPad was the absolute best medium for making that happen.”

Dodson said system officials will be able to implement the pilot program for this fall within the current budget, but officials do not yet have a final cost for the program. He said he expects more information to be available by mid-July.

The elementary and middle schools will get Nooks because no one can legally have an iTunes account until he or she is 13 years old.

If the pilot program expansion goes well, Dodson said the plan is to have all Hoover schools outfitted with Nooks or iPads by fall 2013.

“We’ve always been a leader in technology education. We believe strongly that students are more successful when they have the opportunity to get their information from different sources and learn in different ways,” Dodson said. “That’s very difficult to do in a traditional classroom.”

While the school system won’t toss textbooks just yet, Dodson said he thinks electronic learning sources will become increasingly important.

“I don’t think (textbooks) are going away, but they’re diminishing in their role,” he said. “I think that’s going to bring an excitement and a connection to the real world in the classroom that we couldn’t have done five years ago. It’s the right time.”