Like anything new, the Hays Middle School administration, staff and students are in the process of finding their way with the iPad and making it useful outside of school.

So far, the first-year experiment has had far more positives than negatives, HMS Principal Craig Pallister told the Hays USD 489 Board of Education on Monday night.

“It’s been a busy year at the middle school with the iPads,” Pallister said. “We are learning a lot. We had them last year, just in the building. But what we can do outside the building with them, we are still learning.

“I’ve taken this route: We thought we were getting pretty good, but if you’re not getting better everyday, you kind of plateau. So that’s kind of been the theme. Are we getting better with the iPads everyday and learning different ways to use them? And that’s the key.”

The use of the iPads outside of school was one concern BOE member Josh Waddell had when the issue of students taking home the iPads was brought to the board this summer. His concern ranged from the protection on the small computers to where would a student go if they needed to do a project online and they might not have instant access to the internet. Pallister presented one way Monday they’ve been able to deal with such a matter.

“A lot of our students use time before school to get on the internet when they come into the building,” Pallister said. “I have students walking in, and we supervise them as early as 6:30 in the morning. We’re down in our gym from 6:30 until we release them to the classrooms at 8 o’clock. Some of the students spend a lot of time (at the school) in the morning if they can’t do it at home.”

HMS Assistant Principal Shauna Zweifel pointed to the iPad use of having apps students can use online and offline that have been a benefit.

“(Students) know ahead of time, ‘Am I going to need internet access or am I going to need to prepare?’ ” Zweifel said. “There are some kids that will come in the morning, and they will submit their assignments when they are sitting in the gym, which is perfectly fine. They’ve done the work.”

Pallister invited a few of the teachers to come to the meeting as well and present a little about how they’ve seen the benefits of students being able to use iPads outside the school. Misti Norris, an ELA teacher, said she has students use the Seesaw app as a journal for the class.

The benefit has been helpful in that the students don’t have to do their journal entry on paper.

“Instead of carrying home 145 notebooks for me to read each week, I get to keep them in my iPad,” she said. “I had all 145 of my students on a piece of paper write on a piece of paper, yes I do have internet access or no I don’t. We had seven or eight students who said they didn’t have internet at home. So I talked to them all individually, and I said, ‘OK, what are we going to do?’ They all said, ‘Mrs. Norris, this is not a problem. This is what we’re going to do.’ ”

Pallister and the teachers gave additional examples of how they’ve been able to have success with iPads.

“As someone who kind of came at you and definitely expressed some concerns last time, especially about the potential access, I want to say thank you for your attention, thank you for everything you’ve done to make this possible,” Waddell said. “You’ve shown us what the results are doing. I’m not going to apologize for making some concerns, but I am definitely very impressed.”