Arlington, VA

Twelve Arlington Public Schools employees traveled to Apple’s headquarters in Cupterino, California to meet with the company’s top executives over the extended Veterans Day weekend last year. The two day information gathering trip in November cost taxpayers a little less than $11,000.

Some of the attendees included School Board Member Libby Garvey and Superintendent Patrick Murphy. APS Spokeswoman Linda Erdos notes that of the 12, Garvey was the only one who traveled on her own dime.

As pointed out by the Arlington County Taxpayers Association, some think the trip was an excessive expense, especially considering Arlington spends more per student than any school system in the region. But APS believes it was well worth it.

“The purpose of the trip is really to talk about what Apple is doing as a company,” said Erdos. “They talk to school districts about how they could possibly collaborate. Because we are using the technology, we are very interested.”

APS has received three grants to purchase iPads for schools. The devices are already in use at schools throughout the county, and are said to be particularly beneficial for students with autism. APS would like to see the use of iPads and other technology spread to more classrooms.

“As educators, we’re looking for every opportunity to find places to support kids,” Erdos said. “It has changed the way kids are learning and how they’re doing their work, and they’re very excited about it.”

There is an Apple office in Reston where APS plans to send its staff in the future for discussing available educational opportunities. When asked why the group didn’t simply visit the Reston location instead of heading to Cupertino, Erdos said the local office serves a different purpose.

“They’re different meetings and different people,” said Erdos. “The people that were in California were really the CEO and top executives from Apple. The center at Reston is really for instructional people. Our instructional leaders will continue to go there.”

Yesterday, Apple announced its first introduction of new or updated products since the death of Steve Jobs, and they’re all educational programs for iPad. The apps are free and allow students to perform a variety of functions such as downloading textbooks, viewing presentations or lectures and receiving assignments or quizzes from teachers.

“It just has a lot of practical application and apps that are free to classroom teachers,” said Erdos. “Our students are young students of the 21st century and we need to keep pace with the learning style that best fits their needs.”

Some APS schools are using other brands of tablets besides the iPad. However, teachers say Apple currently has more learning apps available than other companies.

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