North Carolina chooses Apple for statewide K-3 reading program deployment

Earlier this week, it was reported that Apple had been awarded a statewide contract in North Carolina. I spoke with Drew Elliot, Communications Director, for N.C. Department of Public Instruction (NCDPI) as I wanted to learn more about why iPad, and more about how this deployment would work. Being in IT, I am always curious about the nuts and bolts of how these large deployments work.

Reading teachers across the state, from kindergarten to third grade, will get computer tablets from the state this school year in an effort to track and improve student reading.

Superintendent of Public Instruction Mark Johnson announced the plan Tuesday morning, holding up an iPad for the media, the governor and other members of North Carolina’s Council of State. Johnson’s office put the statewide price tag for the devices at about $6 million. It didn’t immediately have a per-unit price to quote.

Drew said that they looked at a lot of various devices (other tablets, laptops, Chromebooks, etc), but their teachers kept coming back to the iPad. He said that there is a lot of non-iPad device in upper grades, but in the elementary schools, iPad is still the dominant device.

I’ve seen this in schools I’ve talked to as well. When you get in older grades, you might want the “full browser” experience with a keyboard, but in lower grades, nothing beats the simplicity of iPad along with the App Store ecosystem.

The iPad deployment is aimed at tracking reading progress from kindergarten through third grade. They are using a system called mClass from Amplify to track all of the student reading data. My school uses a similar system as well, and we’ve seen great success. What a lot of people forget about reading is that it impacts all subjects. If you struggle to read, you struggle in history, science, etc. It’s such a foundational skill that North Carolina wants to ensure that all students have that firm foundation. By having actionable data, parents and teachers alike will have a firm understanding of where students are at.

I also asked Drew about how these iPads were being deployed and managed. He said that while the state was purchasing them, it was up to the individual districts to manage and deploy them. This process includes their mobile device management system and any accessories (cases, keyboards, etc).

As far as the purchasing process goes, NCDPI purchased 6th generation iPads (black) for $274 each from Apple. The state of North Carolina had an existing convenience contract with Apple that they bought these under. These iPads will be in addition to what is already in the classrooms. NCDPI will also be working with teachers on how to best use the iPad to personalize learning for each student.

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