Mammoth students get free iPads


No computer in the world—Apple or otherwise—would confirm that Christmas happens in October, but it sure felt that way at the Mammoth Middle School this past week.


Students gathered in the school’s gymnasium on Wednesday, Oct. 9, to receive their own iPads as part of a larger plan to prepare students in the Mammoth Unified School District (MUSD) for college and careers.


Not only were the middle school teachers on hand, but so was Principal Annie Rinaldi, along with Donnie Salamanca, the Chief Business Officer (CBO) at Mammoth Unified School District and the leader of the district’s technology efforts.


The 206 sixth- and seventh-graders themselves, however, will in effect lead the “1:1 Technology” push in addition to an additional 600 students in other grades at Mammoth Elementary and Mammoth High School, who will have classroom use of an iPad. 


But first things first, such as, how to make their iPads secure, and some rules.


With a handful of Apple stickers, technology teacher leader Emily Wisner taught the students what is an appropriate post on the Internet, as opposed to an inappropriate post; that downloading non-essential data was forbidden; what to do if a student were to lose an iPad; and how to make a lock screen.


The kids, for their part, seemed to be well ahead of the game, knowing intuitively how to make their iPads their own. Within 15 minutes of the handout, one group of students stood in a row, with each of their iPads displaying their own faces for security purposes. 


The implementation of 800 iPads was part of the MUSD Technology Plan, which was adopted in early 2013.  


By 2015, MUSD plans on getting individual iPads into the hands of the remaining students in the district.


The tech movement is part of an “instructional shift” from the California Standards, which were adopted in 1997, to the Common Core State Standards, which will be fully implemented in the 2014-15 school year.


Mammoth, according to Salamanca and new superintendent Lois Klein, said MUSD wants to position itself on the cutting edge of moving toward meeting the new standards.


Because of the town’s remoteness and small size, she said in an interview earlier this year, students who otherwise might be hampered in comparison to their more urban peers, now ought to be able to easily grab knowledge online.


Backers of the new Common Core Standards say it will introduce new ways of teaching and learning, with a focus on higher-level thinking skills and depth, rather than breadth, of instruction.  


The way students are assessed in the State of California will change, and instead of the paper-and-pencil testing method used in the STAR assessments, there will be a shift to assessments taken via computer or tablet device.


California Gov. Jerry Brown signed a bill on Oct. 2 ending the traditional standardized tests that the state’s public school students have taken in reading, math and social science since 1999.


Assembly Bill 484 replaces the pencil-and-paper, multiple-choice tests with new language and math tests that are taken on computers. 


Regular use of iPads for learning and assessment activities will ensure that MUSD students have the technological savvy needed to navigate through these new MAPP assessments, Klein said in an interview earlier this year.


In addition to the purchase of hardware, Klein said that providing teachers with a new skill-set to prepare them to effectively use technology in their classrooms is another facet of the MUSD Technology Plan.  


Teachers who will be using the new iPads in their classrooms to enhance their instruction received training at a four-day Tech Boot Camp at Mammoth High School in August. Another group of teachers will be trained at a second Tech Boot Camp in January. The district, in a news release, announced that every teacher would have received training by January 2015.