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High schoolers say goodbye to laptops for the summer

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By Ron Benningfield

As LaRue County High School students turned in their laptop computers last week, principal Paul Mullins gave high grades to the first-year program that provided a laptop for each of the 720 students to use throughout the school year.
“I think we’ve just scratched the surface as to the potential these laptops have as instructional tools,” Mullins offered.  “We’ve learned this year, and I think we’ll continue to learn.”
The district has made an 8-year commitment to using the notebook-size computers in and out of the classroom, joining a growing number of Kentucky school districts who have 1:1 laptop programs.
Jessica Beaven, who teaches algebra and English, said the use of computers in her class turned out well.
“It was a learning curve, but we learned what things worked very well and what didn’t,” she said.  
In her math classes, she liked how students used the computers for real-world application.
“With the high price of gas today, I had my students research online how much gas would cost them in different vehicles,” she noted.  “The computers allowed the students to set up charts, graphs’ some things they couldn’t have done without the laptops.”
Students taking class notes on computers didn’t work well for her class because the students were too worried about how the notes looked, she explained.
Software programs, however, did work and several, such as V (virtual)-class, made teaching and learning easier.
“With V-class I can post documents, web sites, assignments, and add other pieces so that students not only can work on in the classroom, but also can do at home,” she said.  “The laptop program changes the role of the teacher from being strictly a lecturer to more of a facilitator, a guide.”
The teachers can place notes, guides, and other instructional tools online for students to access, plus can further explain and answer questions via e-mail.
Shannon Bowen, a 22-year teaching veteran, said the new learning possibilities brought about through the laptop initiative has helped re-energize him as well as some of his veteran counterparts.
The paperless program also eliminates the former perennial excuse given by some students about their lack of doing their homework:  “My dog ate it.”
“The software programs keep a detailed record of what students have turned in, plus the students” computers also have that information, so I can easily and quickly check to see if they, in fact, have turned in their assigned work electronically,” explained Bowen.  He mentioned that the savings of paper is an added benefit of the program.
Senior Aaron Matthews said he likes the laptop in class because he can type more quickly than write.  Fellow senior Jeffrey Warren, who, like most LCHS students learned how to type on a computer keyboard in the second grade, added that a student could be sick and homebound, yet keep up with his lessons via the laptop.
Jeshua Logsdon, another senior, noted, “In today’s technological age, our having laptops has given us a foot in the door for the technology we’ll be using in college.”
Mullins said five schools have visited LCHS to learn more about the program, with six more in line to visit.
“I see the laptop as a tool that as we learn more about in the upcoming years, we’ll be better able to address the needs of our students,” he predicted.