As a pleasant end to the year’s first semester, 47 Bassett High School teachers and administrators were supplied with their choice of tablet – Apple’s iPad Air or Microsoft’s Surface Pro 3. The tablets were purchased by the district with a grant from the Bassett Education Foundation.
Bassett High wasn’t the only school to receive these tablets. The grant, estimated to be anywhere between $100,000 and $120,000, provided tablets to all teachers and administrators in the Bassett Unified School District.
For the administrators, these tablets serve as a tool to improve professional development by streamlining the process of providing feedback to our educators.
Using an application called Classroom Walkthrough, administrators can stroll into classrooms during the day with their virtual checklists, tap the screen a few times, and quickly email teachers their performance reviews.
These tablets were purchased with the intention of preparing the district for the new Common Core curriculum and its promise to teach 21st century skills.
“I’m very excited in the direction Superintendent Rojas is taking us in to be a more tech-savvy district,” principal Gabriel Griego said. “It’s the direction education is going.”
So far, however, the tablets have not been implemented in Bassett classrooms to any visible degree.
Teachers report using the tablets for chiefly personal use, but have also taken advantage of their shiny new toys to take attendance and occasionally for note taking, tasks that hardly require the use of high tech tablets.
Providing teachers the luxury of a choice of tablet instead of issuing one standard issue tablet increases the cost of training crucial for making the dream of 21st century classrooms a reality. It also makes us almost certain to run into confusing incompatibilities. Principal Griego, however, views this as a necessary sacrifice.
Greigo explained teachers are simply more comfortable and productive when working with working on a familiar platform, a statement many teachers agree with.
“I chose the Surface Pro because I’m more familiar with the PC platform,” math teacher Nitza Peraza said.
Teacher Chris Fitch also chose the Surface Pro, and plans to connect it to his classroom’s SMART board through the HDMI port–a feature absent on the iPad Air.
While the plurality of the recipients chose Microsoft Surface Pros, 22 staff members chose the iPad Air, mostly for its integration with their personal Apple devices.
“I chose the iPad because I have an iPhone and a MacBook Air,” Griego said.
Will this fragmentation in technologies our teachers have access to serve as an obstacle to their school-wide implementation, or will the comfort they provide result in efficiency? The answer to this question will come with time.