JACKSONVILLE The Jacksonville City School board on Monday took a look at the results of surveys designed to examine the success of a program that placed iPads in the hands of students during the last academic year.

The results of the surveys — taken of students, teachers and parents — revealed that teachers become more comfortable using the devices in their classrooms this year and that students are using their devices more often to do their schoolwork. The results, along with other findings, were presented by a team of school administrators and specialists during a work session that lasted about three hours.

"That comfort level will transfer to the students naturally," said Emily Sims, a school board member who also teaches education majors at Jacksonville State University.

The survey showed that in 2013 more teachers placed themselves in the category of being "somewhat comfortable"  with the devices than in any other category. This year the majority of teachers placed themselves in the slightly better category of being "comfortable with the devices."

The year-to-year comparison also showed that the number of teachers who consider themselves extremely comfortable with the devices has grown from about 11 percent to about 16 percent.

About 480 students in grades seven through 12 took part in the survey.

The number of students who consider themselves advanced users, the second highest of five possible categories, has increased to just under 50 percent this year from just over 30 percent last year.

In the same time frame the number of students who consider themselves expert users, meaning they can show other students how to use the devices and correct minor problems when the devices have problems, increased to about 30 percent from about 15 percent in that same time period, the survey states.

The survey also asked students how often the devices were used to take inappropriate pictures or to bully other students over the Internet. The findings showed that about 5 percent of students admitted to having heard of inappropriate pictures being shared two to three times a month. The same percentage of students said they had heard of the devices being used to bully other students over the Internet about two to three times a month.

"What we have found is that the students have become our best sources for what's happening or not happening," Jacksonville High School Principal Rick Carter said.

A parent survey, also designed to gauge the effectiveness of the program, yielded little information because 95 percent of parents at the school did not participate in it, school officials said. They pointed to the timing of the survey — conducted right after the school year ended — as the reason so few parents took part in the survey.

Next year, Superintendent Jon Paul Campbell said, it would be better to issue the survey while students are still in class and parents are still engaged in schooling. The survey was available online and, by request, via U.S. mail.

During a formal board meeting before the work session members:

  • Amended a contract with McKee and Associates Architecture and Interior Design to reflect the precise date the firm began working for the city school board.
  • Approved a job description and salary scheduled for a speech language pathologist.
  • Accepted the retirement of longtime band director Jeff Gossett.

Staff writer Laura Gaddy: 256-235-3544. On Twitter @LGaddy_Star.