A pilot program within Dubuque Community Schools allows older students to bring technology home.
This school year, the district piloted a technology device checkout program at the secondary level to enhance learning opportunities.
Thirty tablets stored inside libraries are available for students to take home at Jefferson, Washington and Roosevelt middle schools and Dubuque Senior and Hempstead high schools. All secondary students also have the opportunity to check out a Wi-Fi hotspot from their school.
"It's very progressive of the Dubuque schools to be doing this," said Coby Culbertson, district director of technology.
He said people often forget about access when they discuss the importance of putting technology into the hands of children. Some students might not have Internet access.
The district re-purposed some tablets originally bought for teachers and leased 20 Kajeet SmartSpot portable Wi-Fi hotspots that are filtered for school use.
"We wanted to start small," Culbertson said.
The 12-month lease agreement with Kajeet costs nearly $8,500. It was funded by revenues collected from a 1-cent sales tax.
Kajeet SmartSpot hotspots were distributed based on schools' socioeconomic data. Jefferson received five, Roosevelt got three and the other schools each received four.
The devices can be checked out daily at the middle school level and weekly at the high school level.
"Any time that we can offer resources to students outside the actual school building is a good thing," said Katie Houselog, a teacher librarian at Hempstead.
Not only are the hotspots filtered for school usage, but they also have time restrictions that make Wi-Fi unavailable from 11 p.m. to 6 a.m.
Houselog said there are about a dozen students who have checked out a tablet, hotspot or both at Hempstead. A few students checked out items more than once.
"We haven't had any issues," Houselog said.
The technology device checkout program was one of the 2015-16 priority initiatives discussed Monday night during the district school board's strategic plan update.
In 2013-14, about 1,300 Lenovo ThinkPad tablets and Bluetooth keyboards were purchased at a cost of more than $850,000. Culbertson said the devices were used by teachers and students in the implementation of the district's technology plan in secondary schools and at Alta Vista Campus.
"Tablets were all the craze," Culbertson said. "We really found that our stakeholders wanted a laptop. They wanted a little more robust experience with the technology."
In 2014-15, the district purchased about 1,200 HP ProBook laptops with warranties at a total cost of more than $1 million.
More than 2,500 additional HP ProBook laptops were purchased this school year, at a cost of more than $1.4 million. The purchase focused on providing seven laptops in each general education classroom in second to fifth grades. Additionally, the purchase increased the number of devices per mobile cart.
All purchases were made with revenues from the 1-cent sales tax.
Some tablets will be used in the pilot checkout program for students, while others are additional devices for teachers to use in classrooms.
"We wanted to have another use of the tablets," Culbertson said.
When we started Kajeet in 2003, we wanted kids to be agile with technology, to be empowered and safe, and we wanted to help them respond with confidence to what's happening in their world. Not incidentally, we want parents, educators and guardians to be involved too. Being part of the mobile world is not just fun, it’s a shared responsibility.