The Bethel community took a leap of faith in 2014 when voters decided to fund a technology levy to put an iPad in the hands of every student in the district.
At the time, very few districts in the state offered a 1:1 iPad program, but after thoroughly reviewing research and expert testimony, Bethel leaders agreed that equipping every student with their own device gave them the best chance to compete in the future.
As of this school year, every one of Bethel’s roughly 20,000 K-12 students has access to an iPad in the classroom. The young program has already racked up considerable accolades, including being named an Apple Distinguished Program. The prestigious honor is “reserved for programs that meet criteria for innovation, leadership, and educational excellence, and demonstrate Apple’s vision of exemplary learning environments,” according to Apple.
Mary Kolowinski and Allison Horak teach highly capable students as part of the Endeavor program at Naches Trail Elementary. Their classrooms were part of the final iPad rollout this year, and both teachers say the tablets are instrumental for their popular and successful Lego robotics program.
“Besides being able to program on it, the iPad gives students the perfect ability to document their journey through what they’re doing,” Kolowinski said. “They have the ability to do videos of what programing works, take pictures of things, make slide shows, and just work together and share things with other people.”
The teachers say having high-tech tools like iPads in the classroom allow educators to open up their teaching playbook and really explore unique ways of learning.
“It covers every aspect of the curriculum in some way,” Horak said. “This is one of those opportunities where you’re really limited only by your creativity and imagination.”
The district’s biggest responsibility, according to Director of Digital Learning Dawn Moye, is to prepare students for the future. That’s a big job, especially when you consider how quickly new professions are being created and old professions are being reimagined thanks to changing technology.
Essentially, today’s kids need to be prepared for a world that doesn’t yet exist. One way to ensure they’re on an even playing field with fellow students around the world is to give them access to the technological tools that are helping shape tomorrow’s industries.
“By providing all of our students access to technology, we are creating an environment that fosters highly-skilled, time-tested instructional strategies while developing the problem-solving, technology and research skills that are expected in today’s world,” Moye said.
In order to keep the 1:1 program going into the future, voters will once again have to head to the polls to renew the Technology Levy. The levy will cost residents .46 cents per $1,000 of assessed value. That’s slightly more than last time because the figures have been adjusted for inflation and to accommodate more students in our growing district (450 new students this year alone). There are now 23,500 iPads deployed to staff and students in our district.
In addition to iPads, the levy would also fund infrastructure improvements, Wi-Fi, TOSAs and digital learning coaches, a help desk, Canvas and other apps, a content filter, and professional development for staff.