Technology in Schools: McAllen, TX District Launches Huge, iPad Based Plan

March 27, 2013 at 7:00 am CDT

Students use iPads in class at Michael E. Fossum Middle School in McAllen, TX. Many national media outlets have covered the McAllen Independent School District's big rollout of iPads in classrooms system wide as part of its new TLC3 initiative.

When it comes to keeping pace with technology in schools, the public school district in McAllen, Texas  stands out with an ambitious plan called TLC3, which stands for "Transforming Learning in the Classroom, Campus and Community" and relies on mobile devices to bring about that transformation.

Technology in Schools

As of the 2012-13 school year, MISD issued 25,000 iPads to teachers and students throughout its system, which comprises 20 elementary schools, seven middle schools and five high schools. Every student in first through 12th grades has an iPad for school use, while every pre-K and Kindergarten student received an iPod Touch.

As a result, the McAllen Independent School District places third in the world among the Top 100 iPad deployments, including private company and government agency purchases. When it comes to iPad rollouts in schools, MISD places second only to the San Diego Unified School District, which purchased 26,000 iPad 2s for use in specific middle and high school classes.

We first wrote about the district introducing McAllen students and teachers to iPads in early 2012, after learning about the initiative while working with the McAllen Chamber of Commerce on its annual program to promote the city to newcomers. The initial program started with groups of 10 teachers in 14 different schools using 5,000 iPads with their students. By fall 2012, the second phase brought the technology to every school and student.

Measuring Results

Still in its first full year, only time and test scores will tell how the new teaching and learning methods affect student performance overall. However, at least one MISD elementary school already reports dramatic increases in student reading participation levels. Other "successes" are more testimonial in nature, with teachers and parents sharing how students seem more engaged in the more interactive ways of learning, such as first graders using the iPod Touch to record their voices while reading, sign language students teaching others through video and a NASA engineer delivering a lecture to a class via Facetime.

Beyond test scores, the students are learning how to use everyday technology beyond what most kids are used to when it comes to digital environments (social media and games) to absorb more traditional and educationally valuable subjects. Computers in schools clearly is not a new concept, nor is issuing laptops to students throughout a system. Mobility makes the difference with iPads, as does overall expense.

The latter, in part, motivated MISD Superintendent Dr. James Ponce to contact Apple while the district considered alternatives to more-costly laptops and desktops. MISD later enlisted the company in helping shape the new TLC3 strategy. MISD negotiated with the company a financing deal of about $3.5 million a year, according to the same Bloomberg Businessweek article linked above. The district tapped funding from state, private and federal sources for the five-year initiative.

What about equipment loss? Maintenance? Inappropriate (or simply noneducational) use? MISD coordinator for network services addresses these and other questions in this Q&A with The Journal.



Reader Comments Use a Facebook account to comment. Subject to Facebook's Terms of Service and Privacy Policy. Your Facebook name, photo other personal information you make public on Facebook will appear with your comment.