Goodbye, backpack stuffed with books. Hello, computer bag with just a MacBook.
Starting this fall semester, Glen Rose ISD students from the sixth through 12th grades each will receive an Apple MacBook Air as their main learning “platform.”
The GRISD board of trustees approved the purchase at its meeting Monday evening. The board previously had allotted $3.35 million in existing funds for technology upgrades. The amount of the computers, software, Cisco Wireless “N” infrastructure and a three-year professional development partnership with Abilene Christian University to provide extensive training comes to about $1.728 million.
The “one-student, one laptop” program grew out of a 21st Century Learning Committee initiated in September 2011. Its members – which included parents, teacher, community members and a student representative, Trey Sexton – came up with a vision to provide students with “equal access” to resources that would allow them to be “creators of knowledge, not just consumers” and to have access to up-to-date, current information.
The program was budgeted to last for 15 years. It’s not known what devices will exist then, of course, for education, but GRISD wanted to make sure the program will be a long-term one.
After evaluating vendors – and with strong encouragement from Trey – the district chose Apple and its MacBook Air rather than the smaller but less versatile iPad.
Doug McClure, the district’s technology director, told the board that various studies have shown that students learn more in less time and are better prepared for the future if they learn using computers.
However, none of that can happen without the right training, McClure added.
“Training is the single most important thing,” he said. “This is the key to everything we do.”
The training isn’t about the device, he added.
“The training is device-independent,” McClure said. “It’s about what goes on in the classroom.”
GRISD has found the “right partnership” with Abilene Christian University, McClure said. The university has a Connected Community subsidiary that can train kindergarten through 12th grade teachers on how to use technology as an effective teaching platform.
Each staff member will receive a 13-inch MacBook air, while students will receive a more compact 11.6-inch version.
“We want every student to embrace using these,” GRISD Superintendent Wayne Rotan said. “I think you’ll see a transformation of what takes place in our classrooms.”
Following is the timetable for the transition to computer-based learning:
Teachers will receive training from Apple Computer before they go home for the summer. They will have their computers all summer to work with and ACU will provide two days of on-site training in August.
This June, mentors will receive training and groups of students and parents will get training in July.
This August when students arrive to pick up their school schedules for the fall semester, they each will be issued a laptop. Each one will be equipped with filtering software, just as the school on-site computers are, to prevent straying to inappropriate Web sites.
The district’s three trip buses also will be equipped with wireless hardware, so each one will be turned into a “mobile hot spot,” as Rotan put it. Students can do their homework going to and returning from sporting events and field trips.
“We may want to expand that to our route buses,” Rotan added.
The district plans to charge a $30 per student usage fee and $10 for each sibling. Students who are low-income can qualify for fees as little as $10. See www.grisd.net for forms and more information.
Rotan and McClure said they are very excited about kicking off the 21st Century Learning program.
“I feel like this is going to move us forward,” Rotan said.
After the unanimous vote to proceed with the purchase and training agreement, McClure added his one-word comment: “Woo-hoo!”