Civic Memorial implements laptop program for students.
November 16, 2011
Written by FRED POLLARD
BETHALTO - Following in the footsteps of Trimpe Middle School, Civic Memorial High School has begun the process of providing laptop computers for its student body.
"Our main goal in doing this is to increase academic achievement," Bethalto School District Superintendent Cindy Blasa said. "We want our students to be successful in life."
On Nov. 1, 150 Apple MacBook Air laptop computers were introduced into social studies, science, math, English, and family and consumer science classrooms.
"This is actually an extension of what we started at the middle school, which was really Phase One," said Jay Stemmley, the district's information technology director.
In 2009, Trimpe Middle School became the first school in Madison County to provide Apple MacBook laptop computers to each of its seventh- and eighth-graders as part of the Apple One-to-One Initiative program.
"First and foremost, credit goes to the School Board for its support of this curriculum initiative," Blasa said. "This would not have happened without their forward thinking and dedication to this program. The members have communicated through their actions and support that they are willing to commit time and money to the pursuit of this extensive initiative."
District administration staff and teachers have praised the initiative, saying the students have gained extensive technology expertise, as well as other advantages, by using the computers at school and at home in the evenings.
"If you look at Trimpe, they met (Adequate Yearly Progress) last year," said Justin Newell, who will serve as the district's new technology leader of curriculum. "That is a major accomplishment, and this initiative was part of that process."
The district purchased 800 MacBook Air computers for the high school at a cost of $730 per unit. Stemmley said the district plans to incorporate the remaining 650 computers after the first of the year.
"We are holding off to complete some infrastructure upgrades at the high school," Stemmley said. "Those will be completed over Christmas break. From there, we plan to implement the remainder of the MacBooks to each high school student."
That gives the high school time to acclimate to the new system, Stemmley said.
"We pilot with these initial classes to determine logistics issues," he said. "Because we are familiar with things we ran into with the middle school, we have anticipated and are able to head off some of those issues, such as problems with login.
"We have learned a lot in the last three years."
The 11-inch MacBook Air is 3.5 pounds lighter than the previous MacBooks, with no moving parts, making it the best choice for the high school level, district officials said.
"The option of purchasing the iPad was discussed, but we felt it was important to keep the keyboard," Newell said. "It is hard to expect a student to type a five-page term paper from a screen.
"This program also provides equal opportunity for students. There are a lot of devices out there, but how can a teacher be expected to teach when each device is different, some older than others and some that work better than others? Teachers are free to teach rather than spend their time fixing devices and preparing a student to (be taught)."
Blasa said the staff at Civic Memorial is approaching the transition with what she calls "excited apprehension.
"We proceed with caution," she said. "We want to provide the professional development skills to allow each teacher to provide successful lessons and activities embracing technology. We are there to help them, and Justin will be on hand to help with curriculum issues.
"Professional development is very important. Training the trainer is something we place great emphasis on. We want our teachers equipped to be able to create a classroom where technology is infused into that classroom."
Blasa said the timeline for training during the second semester will be extensive, and on-site training from Apple will take place during that semester, as well.
The district is looking into eventually making the transition to a digital curriculum, allowing cost savings on items such as textbooks and providing the most up-to-date information for the students.
"We would have current resources, instead of 10-year-old math books and eight-year-old history books," Stemmley said. "We now have something that can be updated easily, even on a monthly basis."
The district also foresees few problems in the way of broken or misplaced computers, as Trimpe has reported very few problems in those areas.
"The kids have been very good with them," Stemmley said. "In the three years of having this program, I have had to replace less than 30 screens."
Future plans include expanding the initiative to the sixth-grade level, as well as kindergarten through fifth grade in the next few years.
Stemmley said the laptops at Trimpe also will be refreshed and upgraded next year.