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At EPISD, This Time, Students get ‘Apples’

EPISD rolled out its latest Power Up initiative this week handing out the powerful MacBook Air to sixth through ninth grade students to expand the District’s one-to-one learning initiative.

Andress and Irvin high schools and Transmountain Early College High School were among the first freshman students to receive the powerful device funded through the 2016 Bond. EPISD’s technology department and Apple Store staff will continue to distribute the 11-inch devices through next week. Through the Power Up Initiative in 2015, EPISD distributed PC laptops to high school students but this year the committee decided to switch to the Apple product.

“The Power Up Committee looked at all devices available side by side and decided to go with the Mac because of its capability for 21st century learning and active learning framework,” said Jason Long, executive director of Innovation, Design & Development. “We also looked at the total cost of ownership rather than the initial price. Macs are more expensive than PCs but they are more durable and when you look over the course of four to six year, they have a better residual value.”

The laptops offer Office 365 suite of tools, EPISD’s Ck12 digital textbooks, the new Schoology Learning Management System and preloaded software including Sketch Up Pro to build three-dimensional models.

“EPISD is proud to provide our students with these new Macbook Airs. EPISD students and teachers now have all of the digital tools they need to become true 21st century learners,” said Tim Holt, executive director of Blended Learning. “We hope that all of our students will take full advantage of these tools, that teachers will provide students with these digital learning opportunities, and that parents will support their children and watch to make sure that they are good digital citizens.”

More than 15,000 MacBook Airs will be distributed to 18 campuses this summer as the district gears up for the 2017-18 school year. The campuses include high schools and middle schools with the exception of Guillen Middle School and the five middle schools that are part of the Verizon Innovative Schools grant. Those Verizon campuses – Armendariz, Bassett, Charles, Henderson and Morehead middle schools – will receive laptops next year. Guillen had received iPads last year through the Texas Literacy Initiative (TLI) and will be receiving their MacBooks next year, too.

Last week, EPISD had a small test distribution with the new incoming students at the Young Women’s Academy. The distribution brought excitement from both students and educators.

“Having the laptops for all students will allow our teachers to continue to integrate active learning in the classroom,” said Lincoln Middle principal Haidi Appel, who helped with the academy’s distribution. “Using a personal laptop can only enhance our students’ abilities to learn and grow. We know there will be a learning curve for teachers and students but we need to have our students ready for a different world than we live in today.”

Appel was on the Power Up Committee that selected the MacBooks. Lincoln’s 700 students will receive their MacBooks Aug. 12.

“The Apple products are easy to learn to use and seem to withstand a good bit of banging around,” she said. “The life of the Apple product should be able to carry our students for a great amount of time.”

Dozens of Young Women’s Academy students collected their laptops early Wednesday during the test site. Principal Dr. Cynthia Ontiveros walked around the maze of tables checking in on her new students.

“I’m so excited,” she said. “A MacBook is a powerful tool. Our teachers are going to be able to really use the technology to elevate their teaching and learning. There’s so much we can do with the MacBook, and our teachers are ready to have their students explore that.”

Incoming sixth grader Sofia Guerrero held her new MacBook tightly in her arms before heading back to the school’s summer camp.

“I think it’s a great opportunity for me to be responsible and be able to learn through technology,” she said. “It’s fun to be able to own my own Mac.”

Andress freshman Michael Aleman had never used a Mac before but looks forward to testing it out.

“It’s great,” he said. “I will be able to use it for learning. I’d want to see how it works.”

YWA parent Mickey Loweree also liked the fact her daughter received a Mac.

“With so much technology in the world today, having one of the better computers is a step forward for getting into the world for everything,” Loweree said. “She’s on the right track. From the staff and students and everyone here is just so excited. It’s so cool.”

In the event that a laptop breaks, the MacBook will be repaired by EPISD employees who are Apple trained. The laptops also have special tracking software to help recover the device if it is lost or stolen.

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