This year the Le Sueur-Henderson school district has taken the bold step to put over 400 iPads into the hands of our STEM and middle school students.

This was also a necessary to step to ensure our students thrive in a technology-rich world.

We have had some challenges and learned some lessons throughout our first year. These lessons, both the good and the bad, are assisting us as we build the foundation for a strong multi-level program.

Next fall, we will take an additional step and initiate a Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) framework for our high school students.

Access will not be an issue. Through surveys, we have discovered over 90 percent of our high school students already have access to a device (tablet, smart phone or laptop). For students that do not have access, we will provide it.

Through our monitoring system, we are able to monitor the number of these devices brought into school.

It is not unusual to find we have more devices in use than we have students. Most students have cell phones with Internet capabilities. Add to the mix other devices such as iPads, Kindles, laptops, etc and we already have the beginnings of BYOD.

Another important factor is how teachers are infusing technology into the day-to-day classroom instruction. Unlike the days of textbooks that would have a shelf-life for five-to-ten years, technology demands and how our educators teach are continually evolving. Educators must embrace and keep up with these changes.

Those of us a bit older than our students are technology immigrants. We are making the transition from sending letters in the mail and using phones with cords to the real time information at our hands instantly in multiple formats.

One such misbelief many have is that all kids do on iPads is play games. Before we assume the old vision of “playing games” we need to look deeper. Yes, iPad users may be playing games, but collaboration with others and inquiry strategies to solve problems are examples of the 21st Century skills our kids are building and are part of our curriculum and instruction.

Why is this so effective? Students are engaging themselves in something that has a high interest level. With high engagement comes high learning.

Another old belief is kids will not be able to keep track of their iPads or will break them. To date, I am pleased to report only two iPads have been broken and none have been lost. In our planning, we anticipated needing 15 – 20 extra iPads as replacements.

When you stop to think about it, this makes complete sense. When you value something, you take care of it. Students see the value of the iPads and how the tool is enhancing their learning.

The most important old belief we need to move past is our belief that school and education is the same now as it was when we went to school. We learn and teach much differently today than we did just a few years ago. There is a vast amount of information at our fingertips and compared to several years ago is easier access now than ever before.

Long gone are the days of teachers standing in front of a class and lecturing information to a class whose role was to sit and listen.

As a school district, we are on the right track enabling our students to use technology tools to the best of their ability. As is the case with all things we build, it does not happen overnight. It is a process and will take time to fully develop, but the foundation is definitely in place.

Your comments and questions are welcomed.

Rich Hanson is superintendent of Le Sueur-Henderson Public Schools. Contact him at rhanson@isd2397.org or 507-665-4600.

Customer Service Representative and Editorial Assistant for the Le Center Leader, Le Sueur News-Herald, St. Peter Herald and the Waseca County News.