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A few of the district's eighth-graders will be issued computers as part of a pilot program.
Thursday, August 8, 2013
BEDFORD — When school starts in Bedford County next week, a select number of eighth-graders won’t be using traditional textbooks.
They will have school-issued laptops instead.
Director of Instruction Mac Duis said roughly two-dozen students in each of the county’s three middle schools would participate in the pilot program, designed to test the waters of the new frontier of digital learning devices.
The school division plans to have meetings with parents to explain the initiative, which in turn will help administrators learn ways to implement the digital content on a larger scale in the future, Duis said.
Superintendent Doug Schuch said at a recent school board meeting he would like all students — the division has more than 10,000 — to have such devices, but the pilot is a way to move “conservatively” toward that goal.
Schuch called the technology “the future of education” on Wednesday, as a few middle school teachers taking part in the pilot sat in on the last of several training sessions at the central office.
The sooner that mindset is embraced in the educational and broader community, the better long-range planning efforts will be, he said.
“Whether they like or not, technology is a part of our students’ lives,” Schuch said. “They don’t know a world without technology or without computers. We just want to make sure school becomes a place where they don’t have to shut that all down.”
As part of the “test” tied in with the pilot, administrators are observing three different types of laptops at Forest, Bedford and Staunton River middle schools.
Schuch said school leaders want to gain insight into the devices’ effectiveness before making a long-term commitment — and planning for more funding in future budgets.
Ed Hoisington, director of technology and media, said the 90 devices used at all three schools cost less than $500 apiece.
Some parents have not been overly comfortable with the idea, while others thought it was a terrific move, Duis said.
School leaders have been watching new spending on textbooks during recent budget cycles, with the understanding there may be better and more interactive resources available, he said.
Traditional textbooks still are very much a part of the countywide curriculum and will not be done away with overnight, Duis pointed out.
Duis said the selection of the grade level was in large part for “logistical” reasons. Eighth-graders can begin to take high school-level courses, and decisions regarding the curriculum were a factor.
The digital devices can help students work at a faster pace and serve individualized learning needs, he said.
“We’ve got some work to do,” Duis said. “We’ve got to get used to how the devices work and how the students interact with them.”
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