Redmond School District pilots digital instruction

iPads for students in 9th grade transition summer camp

By Tyler Leeds / The Bulletin

The Redmond School District will pilot a program that gives students their own iPads as part of a summer camp meant to help eighth-graders transition to high school.

Support for the program comes from a $187,500 grant from the Oregon Department of Education. Unlike the Bend-La Pine Schools digital conversion pilot program, which brought iPads to eight schools, Redmond’s program will be much smaller in scale, with only 100 students attending the camp and receiving devices. Titled “Camp Nine,” the program begins during the summer and continues through the school year, offering students an early introduction to their high school and additional support throughout the year.

“We have a compelling interest in preparing kids for the next generation of education,” said Redmond Superintendent Mike McIntosh. “We will ultimately shift to a digital curriculum, and we’ve seen districts around the nation do this in different ways. Our approach is to move slowly and learn from some of the mistakes made by other districts.”

McIntosh said he had “no idea” of the timing for expanding the program, and a larger implementation could be “five or 10 years down the road.”

“We’re going to be very methodical and intentional with the process,” McIntosh said. “We think Camp Nine is a great place to dip the toe in the water and put technology in the hands of kids.”

McIntosh added that the teachers involved in Camp Nine, who will begin meeting with students in the summer and then serve as the campers’ regular English and math teachers, will receive focused training on how to integrate iPads into instruction.

“It’s not enough to just hand teachers devices and say, ‘These are cool,’” McIntosh said.

Camp Nine, which the district said is already full, targets those students who middle school teachers, principals and counselors felt were not reaching their potential and may be at risk of falling off track in high school.

“It’s for kids who may be disengaged in school,” said David Burke, director of secondary education. “They may have all the ability in the world, they’re smart and leaders, but maybe not leaders in school or part of any club. They may get average grades but see school as secondary.”

Burke said the summer portion of the program will not resemble a typical class but instead will feature multiple field trips and will be centered around developing relationships between students and teachers.

“Developing a quality relationship with a teacher is a key ingredient for success,” Burke said. “An early chance to do that in an informal setting will be a great opportunity to develop a mentorship role with teachers, while also allowing students to build relationships with peers.”

Burke noted that current high school leaders will be involved in the camp and students will get early tours of their schools, maybe even having the chance to pick out lockers before other students. On the first day of school, the campers will likely serve as tour guides, helping other freshmen through their first day.

“We know attendance those first few weeks is really important, and we believe this will help connect students to school,” Burke said.

— Reporter: 541-633-2160, tleeds@bendbulletin.com