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Use of technology could revolutionize classroom learning

Deputy Superintendent Dr. Mary Ellis, at right, works with Board of Education members, seated, Carolyn Lowder and Laura Minsk, during a demonstration of the 1-to-1 Laptop Computing in the Classroom pilot program, which will begin in January at Monroe Middle and Weddington High School. Also pictured, from left, is Technology Services Executive Director Dr. David Kafitz, and seated is Director of Middle School Education, Dr. John Jones.

Moving UCPS students into the 21st century is more than just empty rhetoric for the UCPS administration; it’s a tireless commitment, a promise to prepare all students to succeed.
   
With the help of Dell Computers – UCPS is taking a bold new approach to meeting the technology challenges of tomorrow through a program called 1-to-1 Laptop Computing in the Classroom.
   
“This type of program has the potential to revolutionize instruction,” Associate Superintendent Dr. Mike Webb told the UCPS Board of Education during its September 15, 2009, work session.
   
Students will be assigned small laptops called “netbooks” that they will carry with them to and from class and then home in the evening. Netbooks are a small, lightweight, low cost, portable alternative to a full-sized laptop computer, and are primarily used for web browsing, email and instant messaging.
   
Webb, Deputy Superintendents Dr. David Clarke and Dr. Mary Ellis and Assistant Superintendent Dr. Denise Patterson explained the pilot program to the board and then led a demonstration during which the board used the netbooks in a mini lesson.
   
“The 21st century classroom is one that is student-centered, project/real world- based and focused on providing the skills and tools to create life-long learners,” Webb told the board. If the pilot program is successful, it will be expanded into other schools and other grade levels.
   
The goals of the pilot program include greater individualized training, building and applying critical thinking skills, a greater access to the growing body of knowledge that is digital, and opening up the world to students.
   
Monroe Middle and Weddington High schools will receive 240 netbooks donated by Dell in the pilot program that begins January of 2010. Six teachers will be chosen from Monroe Middle and four teachers from Weddington High in grades six through nine. These teachers, who will have varying degrees of comfort level with technology, will be trained by Dell beginning in October.
   
“We needed to see that cross experience so that we know what we have to plan as far as staff development,” Webb explained.
   
Montrio Belton, principal at Monroe Middle School, said the netbooks will open doors for students at his school that were previously impossible to open. “The opportunities for learning will no longer be bound by school walls,” he said. “This will be a wonderful opportunity that will allow our students to maximize their learning potential. Those learning opportunities will not stop at 3:30 because they didn’t have access to technology beyond the school day.”
   
Weddington High School principal Brad Breedlove said the school system has to use this type of technology to prepare students for college. “Every major university expects their students to have their own laptop, Ipod, etc. and know how to use them with an educational purpose,” he said. “They have built their entire instructional process around the use of these every day tools, and they are every day tools at that level. The longer our students continue to use the same pedagogy that we used decades ago, the harder it will be for them to catch up.”
   
“In the old days, a teacher would have taught a lesson and then the students would go to the library two days later and do the research,” said UCPS Superintendent Dr. Ed Davis. “In more recent days, you go to the computer lab the next period. But now, students can access this research immediately.”
   
Davis said that the pilot program is being well received by UCPS educators. “The principals and teachers are very excited about this,” he said. “This is one small step in the right direction and the beginning of something really positive in our school system.” 
   
“This is awesome,” said board member Kimberly Morrison-Hansley. “I’m excited. I appreciate the enthusiasm of the staff.  I’m glad we’re piloting it in a diverse population and I think it’s going to be wonderful. We’ve got to move at a faster rate and I think this is going to take us there.”

Written by: Deb Coates Bledsoe, UCPS Communications Coordinator
Posted: Sep 21, 2009 by Deb Coates Bledsoe

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