By Tyler Leeds

The Bulletin

The fleet of iPads handed out to 3,800 Bend-La Pine Schools students last fall endured only minimal damage over the past nine months, a result administrators partially credit with a decision to ensure students receive the exact same device next fall.

The digital conversion pilot began at eight schools in the district this past school year, giving students and teachers their own iPads for use in class and at home. Next year, the district plans to hand out roughly 5,000 more, and for the 2015-16 school year, plans call for the remainder of students in third grade and up to receive one. Nonetheless, this first year was called a “pilot,” and part of the experiment was to see if the district could afford the devices — an aspiration that could have been derailed by a mass of dropped and neglected tablets.

As a basic precaution, the district required students to have a case that met certain specifications. However, around December, administrators decided to add an element of self-interest to their preservation efforts.

“We decided to tell students, ‘This is not only yours this year, but for the year to come,’” said Shay Mikalson, who is transitioning from the district’s executive director of curriculum and instructional technology to being assistant superintendent of secondary education. “Initially we didn’t plan to do this, because we thought it would be easier to not have to think about handing the same device to the same student. But, over time, it came out in conversations with principals who were dealing with kids that students may take better care of their devices if they knew it’s theirs long term.”

Mikalson said only “between 1 and 2 percent” of i­Pads were damaged to the point where they had to be sent in for work or replaced, adding that the district had planned for a 2.5 percent rate.

Skip Offenhauser, who is taking over as executive director of curriculum and instructional technology after serving as principal of Buckingham Elementary, said he was surprised by how great his students’ iPads looked upon being turned in for the summer.

“Kids had polished them; they were wiped clean,” he said. “One student even brought it back in the original packaging and wrapping. Giving students the same iPad next year is logistically more of a challenge, but it rewards kids who took really good care of their device. If they had a nick or scratch, they’ll get that same nick or scratch next year.”

Despite policies aimed at preserving iPads, the district acknowledges that replacing the tablets with updated models will be a necessity. Currently, Mikalson believes the district will only have to do that every four years.

“We think it’s possible, some places even go on a five-year cycle,” he said. “If you look at places that sell iPads, devices that are about four years old can sell for about $100. So at that point, students aren’t working with paperweights; they still have value.”

While the district so far believes repairs won’t push the cost of the program out of reach, Mikalson said his office was more concerned with making sure iPads improved instruction.

According to a survey of those in the district using i­Pads, 94 percent of teachers and 69 percent of students believe the technology enhanced learning. Mikalson also pointed to an increase in the amount of time students spent actively conducting research and collaborating online.

“If they were not adding value in the classroom, then this would not be going forward,” Mikalson said.

— Reporter: 541-633-2160,