Laptop initiative will open doors for learning

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LaRue County becoming third system in state to equip students with laptop

By Ron Benningfield

LaRue County Schools are considering taking a giant step forward in technology that could equip all their high school students with never-before opportunities for learning.

The program, which students will name, will put the use of a laptop computer into the hands of each LaRue County High School student. 

“I feel the laptop initiative has the potential to enhance learning and better prepare our students for college and/or the work force,” said Sam Sanders, LaRue County Schools superintendent. 

Schools who have the program in Green County, N.C., have shown a dramatic increase in the number of students who enrolled in college, up 26 percent in 2004 and 94 percent in 2007, according to Sanders.

“They attribute the improvement to the laptop initiative,” he said. “Maine started a statewide initiative in 2001 and has seen writing scores increase.”

At least three Kentucky school districts have supplied laptops to their students. Todd and McCracken counties are in their first year. Daviess County administrators, whose district has had the program five years, told Sanders that though it would be difficult to show that the use of laptops caused improvement on standardized tests, it was something the board and community felt strongly about — preparing the students for the future.

Summer Garris, an LCHS language arts teacher, believes the computers will open the door exponentially to learning.

“For English, there are several practical applications,” she said. “For one, students will be able to write multiple drafts of papers and submit those papers electronically instead of gazillions of papers to print.” 

Teacher feedback, student editing, and other steps of the writing process can be done through the computer.

Just as important will be the application as it pertains to reading, Garris said.

“Being able to access class Web sites and/or blogs will allow students to analyze attributes of literature on a level impossible to do without the technology,” she said. “One teacher pointed out the online discussions allow all students, even those reluctant to share in class, an opportunity to participate in the ongoing class dialogue.”  

She noted that for all subject areas, allowing students to access handouts, syllabi and pertinent literature will permit teachers to spend less instructional time helping students who have been absent “catch up.”

“Having continual access to online sources will allow teachers to use the most current information in their fields and, in essence, allow students to learn the most current and up to date information in every field,” she said.

“Allowing constant and complete access to digital learning will keep them abreast and help prepare them for whatever lies beyond high school.”

Amanda Reed, district instructional supervisor, agreed with Garris.

“Living and communicating digitally is not the future ... it’s where our students live now,” she said. “They are digital natives; we can’t expect them to slow down and wait for us to catch up. We will engage more students and take their learning to a much deeper level by meeting them in their own world.”

Reed said that in education, instructors have been trained to move away from the “sage on the stage” model and to act as facilitators working together with students to develop their own knowledge and understanding.

“The laptop is a tool to help us achieve this goal,” she said.

Next week, we’ll learn about accountability, costs and timelines for the laptop initiative.