Santa Barbara Unified School District students will start the next school year with a district-owned iPad to use in the classroom and at home.

To provide students with equitable access to digital learning materials, district officials approved leasing more than 10,000 Apple iPads for all students in grades 4 to 12.

The decision comes after a successful four-year pilot project was tested at three elementary schools and a continuation high school.

Students in grades 4, 5, 7, 8, 10, and 11 are expected to get an iPad in the fall 2017. In the fall of 2018, students in grades 6, 9, and 12 will receive their tablet computers. All students in grades 4 to 12 will have iPads by the fall 2018.

Students are expected to bring their digital devices to class, charged up, every day starting the 2017-18 school year. Optional insurance intended to cover accidental damage and theft will be available for $29 annually.

Students would return the devices to the district at the end of the school year. 

District officials selected a three-year lease program from Apple. An allocation of state-mandated funds will be used to support the program, said Todd Ryckman, chief educational technology officer for the district.

Technology is transforming the way students obtain learning materials, Ryckman said.

“We live in a digital age where information is everywhere, and kids that don’t have access to that information are at a distinct disadvantage compared to kids that do,” Ryckman said. “It will improve student outcomes by allowing kids to have access to information — the kids that don’t have access now.”

While iPads can be utilized without an internet connection, district officials understand that distributing devices to students is a step towards SBUSD’s equity work in technology. 

Ryckman said district officials are aware that access to free or low-cost wireless will be a challenge for some students, and they are actively seeking a solution to internet access availability when students are at home.

More information about internet access for students at home will be available in the coming months, according to the district’s website

Ryckman stressed that the iPad devices are not intended to replace teachers or quality instruction.

“The most important factor in the success of a student and the classroom is the teacher,” Ryckman said. “Technology is a tool, and it’s not going to replace good teaching. We want to give teachers the tools that make their work easier and allow them to reach more kids.”

The district’s governing board approved moving forward with the techEQUITY program to provide students with equitable access to digital learning materials in late-April.

“The pilot confirmed our beliefs of the equity piece that when kids have access to information at home, it enriches their learning and takes learning outside the four walls of the classroom,” Ryckman said. “As things move more to the digital world, we want to be nimble enough to make changes.”

Noozhawk staff writer Brooke Holland can be reached at Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk, @NoozhawkNews and @NoozhawkBiz. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.

Brooke Holland, Noozhawk Staff Writer | @NoozhawkNews

Noozhawk staff writer Brooke Holland can be reached at Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk, @NoozhawkNews and @NoozhawkBiz. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.