North Tama is set to join the growing number of schools with cutting-edge technology to help students keep pace with their counterparts in Iowa and around the nation. The North Tama County Community School Board unanimously approved the purchase of Kuno devices for grades 7-12 beginning with the next school year.
After a public forum on the issue which brought over 50 people out to voice their opinions on the purchase of the devices, the board wasted little time in making its final decision Monday night, with all members voting in favor.
The debate was largely over whether to purchase Kunos for grades 9-12, or expand it to cover junior high students, and thanks to faculty and the public who voiced their opinions, the 7-12 option was ultimately adopted.
Pictured above is an example of a Kuno device, a tablet that will be issued to every North Tama student in seventh through twelfth grade beginning next fall. The school hopes the devices will help the students compete in an increasingly technological world when their time at NT is finished.
Patty Calderwood was among the many North Tama staff members who attended and voiced her support for the measure.
"I walk through this building every day, and see the need for this," Calderwood said. "We hear a lot that our students can't communicate anymore, and I think we can maximize their skills with technology."
The cost to the school, which was a concern for some going in to the discussion, turned out not to be an issue as the school will not need to raise taxes to help pay for the initiative. Parents and staff also see the cost as something that will be well worth it.
"I've got 30 years invested here, I have kids here," North Tama Elementary Principal Josh Youel said. "I want this school to stay here."
Members of the board, likewise, voiced their support of the initiative early on in the discussion.
"I think the real question is: can we not afford to do this?" said board member Trisha Kennedy.
The roughly $210,000 purchase will also be offset by a technology fee that is yet to be determined, to be paid by parents for each student that attends North Tama schools. The fee will be in the neighborhood of $50, which is something parents voiced quite forcefully that they would be willing to pay. Of those who attended the meeting, none gave negative comments on either the cost of the initiative or the choice of devices put forth by the faculty.
The Kuno device, which is a tablet similar to an iPad, is unique in that it is designed specifically with education in mind. Unlike iPads, which are used by the general public for all kinds of uses, the Kuno centers around its Curriculum Loft software, which allows teachers to upload assignments that can sync directly with the students' machines during the school day.
The Kuno also has a significant advantage in that it can be used without an internet connection, which many in the district do not have at their homes. Each student's machine syncs with those of their teachers during the day, allowing them to work on assignments at home without internet connectivity concerns.
Another of the most important features that led North Tama faculty to recommend the Kuno is its built-in security. Unlike iPads and other competitors, the Kuno has strict security features that ensure students won't have access to inappropriate websites.
The Kuno also features a full-size attachable keyboard and all the devices will be purchased with insurance that protects fully against theft and damage.
The North Tama staff will begin receiving their Kunos in the spring semester, including training on the devices, in order to get up to speed before the full implementation begins in the fall of 2013.