Like most parents Tania Green has concerns about Manteca Unified School District going digital in the coming months.
She likes the idea that her son Carnellius Martin will soon be getting a brand-new Panasonic 3E device.
“He’s a computer nerd so he’s OK with the technology,” Green said at Thursday’s Family Information Night at the Weston Ranch High large gymnasium.
This was the last of the weeklong MUSD community-wide event featuring strong attendance numbers – the two similar-type functions were held at Stella Brockman Elementary School earlier this week and brought in a total of 1,400 while the Lathrop High function had 550, according to Victoria Brunn, director of Community Outreach & Innovative Programs – and resembled more of a techie convention with the likes of Microsoft and Cisco in the mix.
Among the concerns for Green and others were students being responsible and liable for their Panasonic devices with the price tag of $499 each.
Parents received information on the lease / purchase agreement option via MUSD (see: PayPAMS.com) that’s designed to protect families in the event of theft or damage. Cost was as low as $5 per month for one student, $8 for two, and no more that $10 per month for the household with three or more. Under the agreement, the device, if lost or damaged, would cost $50 for the first occurrence and $150 for the second time.
According to Deputy Superintendent Clark Burke, MUSD is ushering a new era by going digital. “We’re trying to have our students ready for 21st Century jobs,” he said.
Since January, the Information Technology Department began working with Cisco to design a wireless network infrastructure to provide a new learning environment in the classroom. “(Cisco) helped re-do our network to handle 30,000 devices on a server at the same time,” said Burke.
This was all part of the Going Digital project approved a few months ago by the school board.
The IT Department also worked with AMS.NET, Vanden Bos Electric, and KMM Service in forging a partnership to bring in this cutting-edge design.
Under the timelines, the Instructional Materials Center Department will be deploying the Panasonic 3E devices to students beginning on Jan. 12.
Each kindergarten- through third- grade classroom will have a set of devices that will remain on campus.
Students in fourth through 12th grades will be allowed to take their devices home much like a textbook.
Burke indicated that, for now, text books will still be used in the classrooms. “We’re not at that point where we can go paperless,” he said.
Teachers, who have been undergoing training, can still have control of their class – in particular, the Panasonic devices – thanks to the Microsoft Surface Pro 2. They’ll have access to every student’s computer, from tracking progress to sharing what’s on the screen with the class.
Brunn said students will be required to have an MUSD Digital Driver’s License.
By that, they’ll be given Digital Citizenship instructions by their teacher – two to three tests taken online – on being safe while using the Internet, taking proper care of their digital devices, and using good internet etiquette.
The latter is to deter students from cyber bullying while teaching them how to communicate in an appropriate manner.
As for curriculum and content, the Intel Education team will be providing that technology, using a Classroom Management application to give teachers the tools to organize, send and receive lessons. This same application will also allow teachers to administer assessments and control student activity.
Finally, how durable is the device?
Burke said the Panasonic was designed specifically for classroom use. The tablet with the detachable keyboard and stylist is not only waterproof but, thanks to the shock-absorbing rubber mid-frame, is tough enough to handle most impacts.
Burke added that MUSD is in partnership with Microsoft, which is providing the free tech support.
For more information, contact the district office at www.mantecausd.net.