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iPads are likely in the future for Farmington students

There are almost certainly iPads in the future for at least some students in Farmington schools.

School board members heard a report at their Monday night board meeting from a group that described the Apple-made tablet computers as vital tools for the kind of customized education superintendent Jay Haugen has preached since he interviewed for the job last year.

The group, made up of district administrators and staff members and school board member Brian Treakle, recently teamed with a similar group from the Spring Lake Park School District to travel to Apple's Cupertino, Calif. headquarters to learn about how iPads can be used in education.

"It was more than just a sales pitch. It was an introduction to the direction education is going," Treakle said as he led off Monday's report.

Group members described iPads as tools that can transform the way learning happens in classrooms, freeing students to explore on their own rather than sitting quietly at their desks and listening to their teachers. It's a big step away from what Dodge Middle School assistant principal Dan Miller called the factory model of education that has been in place for the past century.

Miller pointed out that students today are better versed in technology than they've ever been.

"We are living in a world that is much different than 100 years ago, when we developed the current system we work under," Miller said. "We live in a world where students can pull up information within seconds."

Jenny Huling, one of the district's technology integration specialists, described watching her own children read into an iPod touch and listening to the recording to correct themselves. She said mobile technology like iPads allows students to learn whenever they want, wherever they are.

"This is how technology can help customize student learning," she said.

Haugen has been a big proponent of that kind of customization. He has talked often since arriving in Farmington about the concept of spark, finding each student's passion and encouraging them to follow it. Getting that kind of investment, he said, boosts students' interest in learning.

Haugen's former district received a federal grant to provide iPads to students shortly before he left.

There are still plenty of questions to answer before Farmington students start tapping away on slick new devices. There was no discussion Monday of how many Farmington students would receive iPads, how the district would pay for the tablets or how teachers would be trained to best take advantage of them.

Haugen said all of those questions would likely come up at community roundtable meetings the district has scheduled for Feb. 21 and 23.

But communication specialist Jim Skelly said it's less a question of whether the district will invest in iPads and more a question of when and how many.

"I think without a doubt there will be iPads in the Farmington school district next year in greater number than there are this year," Skelly said. "There's a lot of energy moving forward from a number of different places."

Nathan Hansen

Nathan Hansen has been a reporter and editor with the Farmington Independent and the Rosemount Town Pages since 1997. He is very tall.

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