As all Jesuit students know, there is a lot of speculation as to whether or not Jesuit will be implementing the use of an iPad or other tablet device as a part of the required supplies for students during the 2011-2012 school year. Speaking with Mrs. Michele Williams, a math teacher and the head of the committee of teachers making a recommendation on this decision, I sought to find out where we are in the decision process.

The committee, made up of Mrs. Williams, Mr. Patrick Naughton, Mr. Peter Billingham, and the heads of each of the academic departments, has taken part in the many decisions regarding the future of tablets at Jesuit. One thing to keep in mind is that the committee does not make the final decision on the usage of a tablet; Mr. Tom Garrison, our principal, has the final say. In a recent The Roundup news conference, Garrison expressed optimism: “I’m confident that we are going to become a device school in the next couple of years. First of all, even if I said we weren’t going to be a device school, the price is such that in the next few years students will overwhelmingly have smart-devices anyway. To deny that fact would be silly; there are going to be iPads on campus whether they’re required or not. What we’re trying to do as a school is decide on what grounds classes will use the devices.”

Knowing this, it seems that our school is certainly leaning towards the usage of a tablet. However, the committee has evaluated many factors in their recommendations to Mr. Garrison.

The committee has been working on the recommendation process for a little over a year and a half, surprising because talk of tablets has really only started coming up this year. Last year, Jesuit had a few faculty members use iPads for educational purposes, and Mrs. Williams referred to them as the “test pilot group.”

Right now, the committee is in the process of compiling all of their information from the past year and a half, which they will submit to Mr. Garrison before Thanksgiving. Some of this information may be familiar to students, who remember taking a Moodle survey asking for their own opinions on using tablets and technology. “[The results of the survey] suggest that students are open to the idea and are excited about the possibility,” said Williams.

Mrs. Williams had this to say about the faculty’s view on iPads: “The faculty, like the students, will have the challenge of learning how to use them and most effectively incorporate them into their classes and curriculum.” Luckily, during in-service days, teachers have been attending iPad workshops, designed to teach the most effective uses of the devices and to prepare them for possible policy changes next year.

One thing that students worry about is getting their textbooks next year. Fortunately, printing companies are putting copies of their textbooks on iTunes and other downloadable websites. That being said, Mrs. Williams informed me that “just because we get them doesn’t mean this will be an immediate mandate. If we go with a device next year, it doesn’t mean all of your classes will have [digital books].”  She went on to say, “It will be a gradual process to eBooks if the decision is made.”

Another part of the recommendation is what type of tablet, iPad or otherwise, we would use next year. “There is no unanimous decision” on tablets, Williams said. One of the big issues that has come up is whether or not Jesuit will make it mandatory for students to have the same device, another decision that the committee has wrestled with. They have picked the top devices and listed pros and cons of each; whether or not a certain tablet will be required is up in the air.

The committee also sought to address the biggest concern of the Jesuit parents: how will these be paid for? The cost of tablets is significantly less than laptops, as is the cost of their maintenance. However, Jesuit will not be paying for tablets. The cost of a tablet should pay for the cost of textbooks, seeing that text books for the school year generally cost as much as a new iPad. Mrs. Williams said, “Cost is not a driving factor. Cost is not the reason we are looking into this, because there are so many resources available at such a rapid rate it would be irresponsible for us not to explore this option.”  She went on to say, “The hope is that students break even or save money on textbooks.”

Today, the iPad debate still rages on. The administration should reach a decision by January or February, because incoming freshmen will need to know whether or not to buy a tablet for the school year. Either way, the Jesuit student can expect a more plugged-in classroom environment in the coming years.