School district considers computers for all students | VailDaily.com

School district considers computers for all students

Veronica Whitney

This year, all middle school students and staff at Henrico County Public Schools, in Richmond, Va., will receive Apple iBook laptop computers to use at school and at home. High school students at Henrico schools received them last year.

In Eagle County, school district officials are looking at a similar technology program. It could cost $5 million to place laptop computers in the hands of all students in the school district, says Rick Spitzer, director of technology for the school district.

“If we decide to move forward, the public and staff have to understand the benefits of the program,” says Spitzer, who with other six district employees recently visited the Henrico County Public Schools to observe their technology initiative.

If implemented in Eagle County schools, Spitzer says the program would:

– Make computers available to all students.

– Support differentiated instruction.

– Involve parents in student’s learning process.

– Increase student’s productivity.

The program would add a new way to teach the curriculum through a variety of information sources, including the Internet, Spitzer adds.

“Students at Henrico schools are more collaborative,” he says. “Working with computers creates a business-like workplace.

If the program is implemented, leasing computers would be the best option, Spitzer says. The cost of infrastructure work and hardware for all elementary, middle and high schools would be approximately $4.6 million.

“The cost of training must be considered, too,” he said. “You can’t push this initiative too quickly. Teachers need to spend some time with the curriculum. If they don’t know how to use the computers, students won’t either.”

Training for teachers would take about five days and it would cost the school district $500,000, Spitzer says.

The program would cost approximately $793 per student a year. On going cost would be about $2.6 million a year – including $1 million for hardware lease and $100,000 for teacher’s training. Funding options include grants.

“Most of the grants will get us running,” Spitzer says, “but we would need on-going grants.”

Another concern of using computers in class and at home is that the Colorado Student Assessment Program tests are a paper and pencil test, Spitzer says.

“It would be hard to measure the efectiveness regarding student achievement,” he says. “We won’t be able to show if the computers make a difference.”

Teacher’s support for the project isn’t fully known, Spitzer adds.

“The greatest concern teachers have is the training, which will have to be done on added days.”

School Board President Barbara Schierkolk says she is concerned that the proposed technology initiative could be distractive to other initiatives in progress, like the Teachers Advancement Program or TAP.

“I feel TAP should be our priority now,” Schierkolk said. “But we can certainly resurrect this program (technology) in some years.”

Louis Funk, school board member of Eagle-Vail proposes to start implementing the program just in the high schools. Spitzer says the high cost of trainings, would still be an issue.

Andy Arnold, a school board member of Vail, says other on-going initiatives shouldn’t postpone discussions on the technology program.

“We can multi-task,” Arnold says. “This is an important initiative. We should try to explore doing this, maybe as a pilot program.”

School board members agreed to discuss the issue during one of their workshops in February.

“It could be a timing problem to implement the program now,” Spitzer says. “I think in five years a lot of school districts in the country will be doing this.”

Veronica Whitney can be reached at 949-0555, ext. 454, or at vwhitney@vaildaily.com.




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