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Published October 08, 2012, 11:30 PM

Fargo South students get laptops in ‘Glass Paper Project’ initiative

FARGO – About 350 South High School students were issued new compact personal computers Monday as part of the “Glass Paper Project,” the first major test of the school district’s plan to give each student access to an electronic learning device.

By: Helmut Schmidt, INFORUM

FARGO – About 350 South High School students were issued new compact personal computers Monday as part of the “Glass Paper Project,” the first major test of the school district’s plan to give each student access to an electronic learning device.

The students, most of them sophomores in English, biology and Western civilization classes, gave the “ruggedized” military-grade Lenovo laptops a thumbs up.

“They’re nice! It’s cool. We don’t have to carry our books to study hall,” said Natalie Dubois.

Kaylee Sharbono said she also won’t have to wait to get time on her family’s computer in the evening.

“I’ll be able to get my homework done faster,” Sharbono said.

The $460 computers are part of a multi-year drive to use technology to spark communication, creativity and collaboration and improve critical thinking and problem solving skills. They should also give students the ability to tap more resources at any time, district officials said.

“It’s been good,” Jodell Teiken, the district’s director of instructional resources, said of the first day.

But the big steps lie ahead.

“They use technology in their personal lives, but not so much in their learning,” Teiken said. “This will allow that more naturally.”

The district brought in technology coaches from other schools to assist with the distribution.

Gayle Hyde, one of South’s two instructional resource coaches, said the students were logging into their Google Chrome and apps accounts, learning where the Wi-Fi switches are on the machines and other quirks.

“They mainly want to know what they can do when they’re not in school,” Hyde said.

There were few glitches in the “organized chaos” of the day, said Bill Westrick, director of IT services.

The biggest glitch being that South’s Wi-Fi system would sometimes slow if too many computers logged in at the same time in the library.

A big plus for the tiny computers is that a fully charged battery should last students a full school day, Westrick said.

The prospect of having lighter backpacks by using online texts appealed to several of the students.

“It’s definitely going to take down the weight of textbooks you take home,” said Damien Gehler.

Principal Todd Bertsch beamed as he looked at the students checking out their machines.

The technology isn’t new, but it can create a new way to learn, Bertsch said.

“It’s fantastic. Exciting,” Bertsch said. “The teachers … are excited, and we’re going to hopefully see projects and results we haven’t seen before. Kudos to our school system for making this happen.”

Westrick said North High School will be the next school to get a large-scale computer rollout. That will be in January.

In the meantime, the district is evaluating other laptops, tablet computers (such as the iPad), and hybrids of the two technologies, Westrick said.


Readers can reach Forum reporter Helmut Schmidt at (701) 241-5583

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