Second area school adds iPads as tool for students

Renville County West students in grades 4-12 will be issued iPad2 tablet computers next fall, an initiative that was a joint effort of the administration and the School Board.

The new face of education?
Students at RCW will soon use iPads as learning tools. AP Photo

Renville County West students in grades 4-12 will be issued iPad2 tablet computers next fall, an initiative that was a joint effort of the administration and the School Board.

The RCW School Board reviewed its 2011-12 budget last week and voted to use some of the district's fund balance to lease 420 iPad2 tablet computers.

"We really need to look at what's best for our kids," said Superintendent Lance Bagstad.

RCW is the second west central Minnesota district to order iPads for a majority of its students. MACCRAY will provide iPads for grades 7-12 next year.

The RCW board members' feeling was that "we need to get our students a step ahead of everybody else," Bagstad said.


In fact, board members were behind the push for the iPads when the staff was proposing new laptops.

In April, Bagstad and technology director Dale Negen presented what they thought was a good technology plan to the board, Negen said. "The board challenged us, 'Why can't we do a one-to-one initiative?'"

They started looking at iPads, Negen said, and they learned that the iPad2 could do more than 80 percent of what a laptop could and "they're just more manageable."

The administration proposed doing one-to-one iPads for grades 7-12, but the board wanted to do grades 4-12. Apple representatives told them that they would be "trailblazers" on that, Bagstad said.

Every student in those nine grades will have an individual iPad.

Others will be in a mobile lab available for younger classes.

The school will be developing two mobile laptop computer labs to replace the district's current classroom-type computer lab.

"It's exciting," Bagstad said, to look at the possibilities out there and figure out "how we can evolve and provide our kids with the education they need to have."


Negen said staff workshops are planned to help the staff become familiar with the possibilities for their classes. They aren't worried about the kids handling the new technology.

"We'll give the kids the iPad," Negen said. "Get them in their hands and let them teach us."

Negen and Bagstad said they do expect the district to save some money by using iPads, because students will be able to read up-to-date textbooks and write papers on their iPads.

"Why would we ever buy another social studies textbook?" Bagstad asked. "We're going to do things efficiently."

The district's general fund budget is about $5.9 million for the coming year. Enrollment is expected to remain stable at about 500 students, as it has this year, Bagstad said. The budget includes adding one full-time staff position in elementary/middle school and one part-time staff position each in early childhood programs and in high school electives.

The school will be switching from a seven-period day to an eight-period day, which will decrease class sizes and increase the electives offered, Bagstad said.

The school readiness program will be doubled from two half-day sessions a week to two full-day sessions a week.

In 42 years in the newspaper industry, Linda Vanderwerf has worked at several daily newspapers in Minnesota, including the Mesabi Daily News, now called the Mesabi Tribune in Virginia. Previously, she worked for the Las Cruces Sun-News in New Mexico and the Rapid City Journal in the Black Hills of South Dakota. She has been a reporter at the West Central Tribune for nearly 27 years.

Vanderwerf can be reached at email: or phone 320-214-4340
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