Bethel voters give students tech advantage during pandemic

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When Bethel voters approved a Technology Levy six years ago to give every student in the district access to a personal iPad, they weren’t thinking about a global pandemic that would one day force us out of classrooms and into a new world of distance learning.

The levy was meant to help prepare Bethel students for the future by putting them into technology-rich classrooms and giving them the most advanced educational tools available.

The 1:1 iPad program has succeeded in all the ways our voters had hoped it would, but it has also succeeded in ways no one could have imagined.

Because our students were already comfortable using their iPads — and because our teachers had already received years of professional development training with the tablets — our district had a distinct advantage when COVID-19 forced school closures throughout the country.

While other districts struggled to find devices for all of their students, Bethel students were able to seamlessly move to distance learning with the same iPads they had used all year. That’s not to say our transition was perfect, but the 1:1 program allowed our students and teachers to focus on the curriculum rather than learning how to use a new device.

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Even before the pandemic, our teachers understood the benefits of equipping every student with their own iPad.

“iPads provide equitable access to content and materials because they allow students to figure out what they know and understand through a variety of different capacities, whether it be iMovies, Google Slides, Keynote, or infographics. It’s a different way to illustrate their understanding beyond just writing essays,” said Spanaway Middle School teacher Sharon Coward.

Using the iPads in classrooms for the past five years has improved our students’ technological literacy, enhanced their creativity, and leveled the playing field for children of all socioeconomic backgrounds. The devices haven’t replaced teachers by a long shot, but they have been an incredibly useful tool in our teachers’ toolboxes.

We rightfully praise the resilience of our students and tenacity of our teachers during these tough times, but we must also thank our voters for their foresight, their generosity, and their continued contribution to the students of Bethel.

Voters will get a chance to renew the the Technology Levy that funds the 1:1 iPad program in 2022.

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Helping kids learn is the driving force behind all we do in the Bethel School District.

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