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The Digital Divide is closing in Carroll County. Juniors and seniors at Carroll County High School will each be issued a new Apple MacBook computer beginning Saturday, July 30.
“Stud-ents will have access to information and knowledge 24/7 wherever they can connect to the Internet,” said Bill Hogan, assistant superintendent of Carroll County Schools, in a presentation at the June 23 Carroll County Board of Education meeting.
Students must participate in a series of trainings on acceptable use of the computer, and parents must purchase a $75 insurance fee (which can be paid in installments) before the students can borrow the computers, Hogan said. Students who cannot pay will still have access to the computers during school but must return them at the end of the day. The use of personal laptop computers will also be allowed provided students receive acceptable use training and sign a user agreement form.
“Technology integration has been a goal of the district for the last three years,” said Lisa James, superintendent of the Carroll County School District. “This is another step to insure we are meeting the needs of the next generation of learners.”
John Leeper, principal of Carroll County High School, said that the laptops, with the latest Lion iOS operating system, will give students the tools they need to build projects that previously could be completed only in a library or computer lab. He also pointed out that students who are not connected to the Internet at home will soon have wireless access to the Internet anywhere in the city of Carrollton and in parts of smaller communities such as Worthville.
“More and more businesses and restaurants are offering free Wi-Fi,” said Leeper. “Our students and families will continue to push for more connectivity in their local communities, causing a positive ripple effect for Carroll County.”
Lynn Eaglin, technology coordinator at Carroll County High School cited many benefits to the laptop distribution program, including increased student motivation and a greater ability for students to complete projects at home.
“Students want to use digital resources in the classroom,” Eaglin said. “They enjoy the freedom to carry out their own research, write their own assignments, design their own multimedia presentation, and to be creative. They can produce a presentation, create a movie, make an animation, record a speech and design a poster.”
Eaglin pointed out that students will be able to share these products and other information through a variety of means including blogs, instant messaging, video conferencing and social networks.
District Assessment Coordinator Pam Williams said that learning becomes more relevant to students when they can research an idea or problem, then develop a creative outlet to communicate their understandings to others.
“This is an amazing step and a wonderful opportunity for our school,” said junior Raenah Hawkins, in a Facebook post. “These MacBooks [will] help students become more organized as well as more responsible.”
Senior Kevin States also added in a Facebook post that “…eliminating the need for computers and the problem of forgotten flash drives is a welcome change, and that’s just a couple benefits.”
To help implement the computer loan program Carroll County High School has formed a Vanguard Team, consisting of eight teachers and three administrators. The Vanguard Team, which has members with a wide range of technology skills and from a variety of subject areas, will receive training from Apple and share their new knowledge and skills with the rest of the faculty. Hogan said that at least one member of the Vanguard Team will be available during each planning period in the day to help teachers develop lessons that maximize the use of the laptop computers.
“Our goals are to increase college and career readiness among our students and to increase project- and problem-based assessments,” Leeper said. “Students need time to muddle-through problems and learn on their own. By having a tool that allows them access to necessary resources online, our teachers can create assignments that are similar to the workplace.”
Hogan said he anticipates that the new laptops will have a positive impact on students and save the district money over time by reducing the need for as many textbooks and paper. He has discussed the possibility of working with Northern Kentucky University to conduct a study; however, he also said that it is sometimes difficult to point to one factor as being the sole cause of a particular effect.
“We are creating an atmosphere to foster 21st Century Learning Skills,” Hogan said. “The skills students develop though the use of these computers will help prepare them for college, career, and citizenship.”