Thursday, October 9, 2008
Laptops for Learning
By SUE WATSON
Holly Springs School District held an “Apple Extravaganza” Monday evening to kick off a celebration with ninth grade students and parents. The school district handed out a free Apple laptop computer to all students in the ninth grade, thanks to a grant from the Mississippi Department of Education.
Teams met last week to finalize details so the school can use the computers in English classes, according to Jones Mays, head of the technology program. He has successfully assisted the school in obtaining technology equipment through grants for the last six years. The programs began in the Intermediate School and this year’s grant is to help improve student learning.
Eight students were selected to serve on a Student Tech Team and will assist classroom teachers with technical problems throughout the year. Also key to the program is Joseph Selman, who will be the program technician until the Tech Team is prepared to take over his duties. Tenicia Scott is serving as technical facilitator and Akiah Gipson is technical facilitator district-wide.
The Tech Team already has some computer savvy, having been introduced to computers either by their parents or teachers or both.
Maresha Richmond became familiar with computers in first grade through the Accelerated Reader program. Peter Thigpen started using computers in the second grade at the Primary School and library.
Kenyatta Jeffries started learning about computers after her mother bought a Dell computer for Christmas when she was in the fifth grade. Johnathan Lesueur was in the third grade when he began learning about computers while helping his teacher in class.
Thamar Jones began playing computer games in the first grade on her mother’s Gateway. Khari Isom started playing computer games at home in the second grade and continued learning keyboarding and playing video games in Intermediate School.
Raymond Johnson started learning about computers in the fifth grade.
“My dad taught me how to edit videos and I helped Mom type up classwork assignments when she was studing childcare management at Rust College,” he said.
These eight students will be instrumental in organizing technical support for Holly Springs High School’s new Ideation Cafe, a name suggested by the high school’s new principal, Cedric Richardson.
The Ideation Cafe will operate like an Internet Cafe, said Akiah Gipson, serving as a technical facilitator with the district for five years.
Gipson is excited about the integration of the computer in the classroom because the students are excited, she said.
“They are very excited and are asking when they will get laptops and are familiar with the project,” she said. “The excitement is greater this year because they realize it is going to happen.”
Students involved in the pilot project last year in junior high are beginning to take over the responsibility for the project, she said.
Teachers are also excited about learning to use computers in class projects, she said.
“Most of our teachers have been using Windows and are excited to be using the MacIntosh,” Gipson said.
Students will begin to take virtual field trips while sitting in class, she said.
The students will help create portfolios and put them on line for public viewing after a website is created to display their work. The website will be linked to the school district's website, Gipson said.
Most of the ninth grade teachers at Holly Springs High School are new to the district and Gipson said school administrators believe the use of computers in the classroom will improve teacher retention.
One aim of the project is to give students and teachers an even playing field locally, statewide and nationally, Gipson said.
Mays, who has played a key role in getting new technologies to the school district via grant applications, is proud for Holly Springs to be one of the first districts in the Mid-South area to make this technology and instruction available.
“And we are for sure the first predominantly African American school district doing this,” he said.
The district has worked hard for five years to put technology in students’ hands, he said.
“We have some really talented people helping pull this program together and to make the connection of using technology in education,” he said.
Holly Springs School District is one of a few districts that have technology facilitators and technicians on staff, he said.
A grant for about $190,000 from the Mississippi Department of Education for the first year of the program made the laptop program available, Mays said.
More importantly, because the program is a research-based project which will collect data on student learning outcomes and other information, the school district hopes to use this year's project to apply for more federal and state grants next year.
The Ideation Cafe will contain work stations where students can do research for class projects on-line. The Cafe will also be outfitted with a projector and screen and sound system and distance learning equipment, Mays said.
“It will be like an Internet Cafe where students can come in before school, during school and after school and on weekends to work,” Mays said. “Teachers will be sending in students who are not getting laptops to do class projects and research.”
Mays recognized the following supporters of the Technology Education program – The U.S. Department of Agriculture; The U.S. Department of Education; Apple Computers: Create 4 MS and Mississippi State University; Vista III Media; City of Holly Springs Regional Technology Center; McDonald’s Restaurant; Rust College; Marshall County Library; Latter Rain Ministries Project Hope; Irene Walton, superintendent; Holly Springs School
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