Northern Cass to pilot laptop school
HUNTER, N.D. - Northern Cass School will soon add RAM to the three "R's." School Board members unanimously agreed Thursday to pilot the first two years of a "laptop school," where every student in grades six through 12 will have a computer to use...
HUNTER, N.D. - Northern Cass School will soon add RAM to the three "R's."
School Board members unanimously agreed Thursday to pilot the first two years of a "laptop school," where every student in grades six through 12 will have a computer to use in the classroom and at home.
Teachers will train and brainstorm ways to use the technology in the classroom next fall. Junior and seniors will receive laptops the following year.
Educators and the School Board will assess the program after the first two years. If the program is successful, voters will be asked to approve a technology mill levy to implement the rest of it. Then grades six through 10 will be phased in over two more years.
School Board members and administrators said one benefit of the program is it could attract more students to the district through open enrollment or relocation.
"This could be huge for us," said Randy Moen, board member.
The district, with about 460 students, is the second in the state to adopt the laptop school concept. Fifth- and sixth-graders in Stanley have Apple iBooks. Like Northern Cass, the district plans to add more "laptop grades" each year.
The philosophy behind laptop schools is students have access to technology all the time.
Students can compose essays without waiting for a lab computer. Online textbooks or interactive software programs can be used to enhance lessons. Students also can participate in virtual field trips.
"Learning can be instantaneous," said Superintendent Allen Burgad, who came to Northern Cass from Stanley.
A committee of about 20 teachers, administrators, parents and students studied the concept before recommending it to the board.
Committee members also visited a laptop middle school in Stillwater, Minn.
They found that using laptops in the classroom improves student test scores, prepares students for jobs in a technical business world and motivates them to learn. It also levels the playing field between students who don't have computers at home and those who do.
"It's not just a toy or a game," said Tim Keckler, the district's technology coordinator.
At first Keckler expected technical support staff at laptop schools to be overburdened with students' computer problems. He found that wasn't the case. Most problems came from students forgetting to charge the batteries before heading to school, he said.
The program will cost about $44,000 the first year, slightly more than the district typically spends on technology each year. The second year will cost about $108,000.
Anna Andersson, a seventh-grade student who served on the technology committee, thinks a laptop school is a good idea.
"It's something new and I think students would like school a lot more," she said.
Miriam Tobola, an art teacher at the school, said teachers support the plan.
"They are ready to do this," she said. "It's going to be an exciting and fun adventure."
Readers can reach Forum reporter Erin Hemme Froslie at (701) 241-5534