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Migration starts from tablets
McParland School Annex Digital Support Tech Patti Toone checked out the 350 digital devices for the campus kindergarten through second grader students before handing them out last week. - photo by HIME ROMERO/The Bulletin

Manteca Unified is migrating toward Dell laptops as they start to refresh digital devices issued to students this school year.
Superintendent Jason Messer indicated the new devices will be issued to fifth and ninth grades. The goal is to reduce screen breakage that occurs when a tablet is used without a keyboard as well as faster repairs. The laptops come with a service contract that provides quick on-site service by Dell.
The move is expected to allow the district to meet the goal of having a device in the hands of all 23,500 students 100 percent of the time. The district bought additional devices — primarily laptops — last January to up the number of back-up devices available for when issues come up and a student’s device isn’t working. The laptops were first tried out in academy classes with favorable results.
Messer has stressed in the past that the key to keeping costs down and maximum effectiveness for learning was to utilize software that is interchangeable with numerous devices which is exactly what the district has done.
Replacing devices as they age has always been part of the district’s Going Digital game plan and budgeting. By starting what is essentially “refreshing” devices 18 to 24 months after the first tablets were issued means the district can then replace them in waves over four to six years. In doing so it spreads the cost over multiple budget years making the expense easier to absorb.
Most experts put the average life expectancy of computer hardware such as tablets, laptops at desktops between three and six years.
The tablets pulled from fifth and ninth graders can then be used to replace tablets that have issues or fail that are still being used by other grade levels.
Messer noted the district IT staff made numerous repairs over the summer as well as checked out every device to make sure students all had working devices on the first day of school.

Going Digital advantages
becoming clearer after
full year of classroom use
While some critics focus on the cost of devices issued to students that run $300 to $400 apiece, it ignores less-than-subtle moves by the state to encourage digital teaching platforms. Students now have to take state tests on computers.
And while digital devices are here to stay in the real world from being used by a power pole inspector in the field to log work, materials used, time cards of his crew and a host of other issues to farmers who do everything from ordering irrigation water to tracking dairy cow milk production and logging details of their care as well as in the usual white collar occupations, the classroom advantages go way beyond familiarizing students with their day-to-day use for future jobs.
Among the advantages:
uStudents now have direct access to library material — traditional sources in e-book form to school approved Internet resource/reference/research sites — on an individual basis. They don’t have to physically go to a school library or wait in line to use a classroom encyclopedia.
“Encyclopedias” that once were the staple of classrooms and were usually significantly outdated are now electronically updated on a regular basis without the cost of buying an entire physical set.
uThe One Note program allows students to make notations as they read material on the actual electronic page as a teacher explains a concept or subject helping to enhance understanding. Under old school note taking it would be done on a separate piece of paper as marking the book would have damaged it and been cause for replacing it.
uMore targeted instruction by teachers as the available software makes it easier to teach students of various skill levels.
Tailoring lessons plans is being made possible with the combined print and digital adoption for language arts curriculum in kindergarten through 8th grade. The adoption that is expected to cost $5 million is the first thorough blending of the Going Digital initiative with traditional books.
The McGraw Hill Wonders English Language Arts/English Language Development program adoption covers kindergarten through sixth grade.
A fully digital program English Language arts curriculum — Study Synch — has been adopted for the seventh and eighth graders. Study Synch is already used in high school English classrooms.
Students will be able to continue to use MyOn Reader in kindergarten through eighth grade and Overdrive for seventh and eighth grades. Both are digital library programs.
Messer noted teachers and students also have access to “many other” digital programs for supplemental use.
The superintendent said teachers and administrators are continuing to instruct students on the proper use of devices.
All 23,500 students also will be taking the third year of Digital Citizenship lessons designed by Common Sense Media.
The devices were first distributed in February 2015. The 2015-2016 school year was the first full year that the devices have been in the hands of students.
Messer noted nearly two years prior to students being issued the devices that teachers had already started working with them.