Students receive netbooks to merge technology with education
SOUTH LAKE TAHOE, Calif. – Kids, welcome to the future.
Over the next few months, every student from the third to 12th grade at Lake Tahoe Unified School District will receiving small laptop computers, known as netbooks, that will eventually replace paper workbooks and other materials.
School officials said that LTUSD is the only district in the state piloting such a program, paid for with an initial $160,000 in Measure G funds and to be maintained by the annual textbook allowance from the state.
Superintendent James Tarwater said the initiative helps put technology into the hands of students who may not otherwise have computer and high-speed Internet access at home.
“This is the future,” Tarwater said. “It opens up the world.”
On Thursday morning, South Tahoe Middle School teacher Joe Pfeil was leading a sixth-grade math class through PowerPoint slides. Each student, with their own netbook that’s checked out of the library like a book,
Students may take the netbooks home at night. Each computer is equipped with Wi-Fi that automatically connects with hotspots, so parents don’t have to have high-speed Internet access. Parents also receive their own e-mail account and have full access to the computer to monitor their child’s Internet and e-mail activity.
All Web sites are blocked except the sites used by the teachers and the district as an educational tool. Documents are stored in cyberspace, not on the computer.
Pfeil was one of the few teachers selected to roll out the program in the classroom. At the elementary level, students will begin receiving netbooks in the next few months, with full usage starting in the fall.
Pfeil maintains a Web page and blog that students and parents can access for receiving and filing homework. The Microsoft calendar function will eventually serve as a school and class calendar, accessible and amendable by parents to inform teachers of doctor’s appointments and other planned absences.
Frank Kovak, an English teacher at South Tahoe High School, said the technology helps open the lines of communication among teachers, students and parents.
“Introducing this technology into the classroom is leveling the playing field,” Kovak said via e-mail. “No longer are there ‘haves’ and ‘have-nots,’ and we encourage the high school students to share the netbooks with their families, so we’re opening up the doors of communication between school and home.
“Students have equal access to word processing, Internet resources and opportunities to learn Internet etiquette and responsible use,” he added. “The world after high school is asking them to be skilled in these areas. We have the chance to better equip them for their academic, professional and career lives.”
The program was spearheaded by district IT supervisor Ken La Mascus, who worked with AT&T to negotiate the purchase and monthly service agreement. Lamascus likens the agreement to a cell phone purchase – pay for the initial product, pay a monthly service charge, then the product is replaced for free.
The netbooks cost the district $80 per unit, with $100 credited back after a few months. The district pays AT&T $7 per month, per unit, to service.
Originally, the netbooks were to be paid for by textbook funds. Superintendent Tarwater said the use of technology in lieu of some textbooks was mandated by Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger. But when textbook funds were frozen, Measure G funds were tapped instead. Tarwater said the technology is an approved use of the voter-approved bond funds.ࠂ
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