District approves major technology purchase

By: April Lehmbeck | Advertiser Times | Published July 1, 2013

HARPER WOODS — They’ve done the research and weighed all the options, so the final decision as to what Harper Woods Schools would ultimately bring into the high school as one-to-one technology devices — meaning one device for each student and staff member — was a big event at a recent board meeting.

“This is a very exciting agenda item for the district,” Superintendent Todd Biederwolf said, adding that it’s “a great opportunity for the district.”

The ultimate decision was to go with more than 450 MacBook Air laptop computers. The board approved the purchase at its June 18 meeting.

Thanks to grant funding, the district has had a major technology boost, including the recent purchase of iPads at the elementary level, some additional technology for the middle school and the purchase of one device for each student and staff member at the high school.

The district has been awarded multiple phases of school-improvement grant funding.

“All of that adds up to just under $2 million,” Biederwolf said of the grant allowances for the year. The MacBook Air purchase, including training, totals about $547,000.

“It’s really incredible, the number of opportunities we’ve had with this grant,” school board Vice President David Kien said.

Districts that are able to provide one-to-one technology are still rare in the state, Biederwolf said.

The new laptops will be maintained in the classrooms so each student has a device assigned to them for each class.

While the district had little trouble pinpointing what would be the best for the elementary schools, they had a lot of work to do to determine what they wanted for the high school.

There were several possibilities when it came to laptops.

Before making their decision, district officials traveled to other districts to see what they were using and to get their input.

“We have been deeply invested in really working to make sure that we’re making a sound recommendation and a contemporary recommendation,” Biederwolf said.

Biederwolf said the district had initially considered going in a different direction for the technology at the high school, but the board told them to take their time considering the options.

“The board really challenged us in that regard,” he said.

That resulted in what the district feels is a better decision.

“There was a lot of traveling and visiting and research,” said David Rabbideau, director of academic accountability and student services.

They narrowed it down to the Chromebook, ThinkPad and MacBook Air.

Ultimately, a number of benefits swayed them toward the Apple laptops.

“The Mac clearly came out ahead of the other devices we were looking at,” Rabbideau said.

“Apple just announced new models for the MacBook Air,” board President Brian Selburn said.

The district will get professional development opportunities with the laptop purchase.

At the same board meeting, the district voted to purchase 30 iPads for the middle school through another grant source.