Fargo North High sophomores to get hybrid computersFARGO – Sophomores at North High School will fall in love with what Cupid brings them on Valentine’s Day.
By: Helmut Schmidt, INFORUM
FARGO – Sophomores at North High School will fall in love with what Cupid brings them on Valentine’s Day.
That’s when the Fargo School District plans to distribute new computers to them as part of a one-to-one computer initiative.
The district is seeking bids on the machines – hybrid computers that can be used as both laptops and tablets, said Bill Westrick, the district’s director of information technology.
Palmer Obembe got a look at one Thursday.
For Obembe, who owns laptop and desktop computer and uses the family’s iPad 2, tooling through tech is second nature.
“It’s a decent size to work with,” Obembe said of a lightweight Acer Iconia tested by district staff. “I think it’s cool you can still use the (touch) screen, even in keyboard mode.”
Jerry Schneider, North’s instructional technology coach, said students should be able to easily adapt to the hybrids.
“The learning curve on this should be no different than an iPad,” he said.
The district also will run a pilot project in its three middle schools, with half of the sixth-graders – two sections at each school – getting the hybrid computers. The distribution date for the pilot project will be chosen in January, said Jodell Teiken, director of instructional services.
Westrick expects to get a good price, about $600 each, as all of the major manufacturers have their own take on mixing the functionality of laptops and tablets. The request for bids is on the district’s website, he said.
The goal of the district’s one-on-one technology initiative is to have some type of computer or personal learning device in the hands of all students in grades six through 12 in five years, Teiken said.
The project started this fall at South High School, when 350 sophomores were issued laptop computers.
“I would say it’s exceeded my expectations at South. The teachers are quickly getting up to speed on what it means” to have the laptops as a learning tool, she said.
“I see the students using them in small groups in the hall and taking them home,” Teiken said. “It’s kind of becoming the new pencil and paper.”
South’s Principal Todd Bertsch said teachers have been able to engage with students in different ways using the electronics
He said students are giving more presentations and are more organized.
“We can take the dog ate my homework off the table.” Bertsch said.
No firm date has been set on when Davies High School sophomores will be issued computers.
Next year, the district will aim to have laptops in the hands of all juniors and seniors at the high school level, Teiken said.
Teiken said the cost of getting the project rolled out district-wide will be $750,000 to $800,000 a year for five years, or half of the $1.5 million annual technology budget.
Westrick said teachers have trained to use laptops and tablets since the summer and focused their professional development time on working with students using the devices.
“It’s the teachers that make the whole thing work, not the device. The devices aren’t magic,” Westrick said.
At North High School, Principal Andy Dahlen hopes the hybrid computers transform how students learn.
Most of the texts will be online, and they can highlight and write in the margins, he said.
Teachers also will be able to better customize learning for students.
“I think the kids have grown up with some of this technology around them. … and we really haven’t jumped into that,” Dahlen said. “It will cause us to do our jobs differently and work harder to produce better results.”
Readers can reach Forum reporter Helmut Schmidt at (701) 241-558