by Coy Holcombe.
By now, most of the netbooks at the High School have been assigned to students. Each student at the High School will receive a netbook. In today’s education terms, this is called a "one to one" program. In addition to the netbooks at the High School, each grade level from 3rd to 8th will receive at least one classroom set of netbooks. The older netbooks that we have purchased over the last year and a half will be distributed to the Primary for grades PK-2.
First of all, why did the district choose netbooks over full-sized laptops? Well, the question sort of answers itself. We believed that the "full-sized" part of equation was not a positive. The size and increased computing power of the latest netbooks made them extremely attractive both literally and figuratively. Of course, cost was also a consideration; as was the durability of any type of computer that was going to be issued to students (or moved from class to class on a daily basis).
Second, the district does not believe that computers will ever take the place of good teachers and good teaching. Computers are tools that allow teachers and students the opportunity to explore topics in new and exciting ways. As with all teaching tools, they have the potential to take lessons to the next level, or they can be used as paper weights.
Third, the district believes that technology should be a seamless part of the learning environment. Back when the average cost for a desktop machine and monitor was over $2,000, most districts had little choice but to place a few of these expensive machines in a "computer lab". If a student was really lucky, they might get to use one of these machines once or twice a year (assuming that they did not have a class in the computer lab). One of our objectives at EISD is to eliminate the very concept of a computer lab. We want the technology with the students in the classrooms. We do not want it to be a special occasion for a student to get to use a computer. We want it to become an everyday expectation that technology will be a part of every student’s day from beginning to end. Yes, we are probably still going to have to offer some classes in a lab setting (such as our yearbook class, or our technology media class) simply because of the computing power needed for these programs. However, what we want to move completely away from is the necessity of requiring our English teachers to sign up for a computer lab weeks in advance so that their students have a precious one hour to research a specific topic.
Finally, EISD realizes that we cannot simply stand back and pretend that the technological and digital environment that our children are growing up in is not affecting how they learn. I can state from personal experience that my two daughters do not learn in the same way that I did. How could they? They are truly digital natives. They have grown up in a world that always had Internet, always had cell phones, always had affordable home computers, and the list could go on. The most technology that my generation employed on a regular basis was maybe a TI-30 calculator in math and science classes.
I want to thank our technology department for all their help with the deployment of the netbooks at the campuses. The beginning of the year is always a challenge for the technology people. This year, they not only had to contend with the usual first of the year problems, they were also in the process of receiving, imaging, and distributing 600 netbook computers.