School district prepares to hand out new laptops Monday
Thursday, July 17, 2014 1:00 PM
MADISON - Laptops lined the top of each bookshelf Monday morning at the Media Center at Madison Central High School, as tech experts worked to get them ready for students.
Drew Griffin and four other computer technicians employed by the county were working to give each computer a personal identity and load the required software ahead of the first day of computer handouts, which is scheduled for Monday.
"We've been at it for a few hours, and we're on pace to finish in plenty of time," Griffin said.
County school officials announced last week they intend to issue a laptop to each high school student in the district's five high schools - Madison Central, Ridgeland, Germantown, Velma Jackson and Rosa Scott.
Gavin Guynes, director of Information Management Systems, who observed the computers being prepped Monday, said the response from parents concerning what the district calls the 1:M Initiative has been overwhelmingly positive.
"We've already had 1,400 of our 4,000-or-so students we expect to sign up for the introductory learning sessions scheduled for one of the sessions," Guynes said. "It seems like everyone is signing up for the first session. There's a lot of excitement.
"I think the biggest question they have is what happens if, for whatever reason, they can't make it to the pickup day. So we're looking at setting a makeup-day for 1-2 days before school starts. We'll probably have another period for pick-ups for a week after school starts, as well."
He added that district workers have already installed 90 percent of the Apple TVs and projectors in the classrooms.
Germantown High Principal Wesley Quick called the response from parents and students "overwhelming," and said he's got his staff preparing for their distribution, which is set for next Thursday, Friday and Saturday.
"We started getting responses immediately," he said. "The students are ready to get their hands on them. I think the impact it's going to have on the students - not only the creative opportunities it's going to provide them, but the way it will prepare them for the future - is going to be incredible."
Ridgeland High Principal Sharon Summers said Wednesday there's no way to understate the impact the initiative could have on her school, which already performs at a high level.
On average, 43 percent of Ridgeland's roughly 850-875 students (in any given year) receive some kind of merit-based, college scholarship. Summers said she thinks that number could increase even further with the new technology in the classrooms.
"I expect it to revolutionize the way we conduct classes and allow students to facilitate their own learning," she said. "A lot of the time, teenagers become apathetic about education when they get to the high school level, but this will give them a device they with which they can connect. It should help engage them and help them produce."
Summers added the students that will likely benefit the most are those who like to learn on their own time. Many RHS teachers, she said, plan to record class lectures and upload them to the school's server, so that students can review the lessons for review or to help with homework, which could also be turned in online.
"It'll also let our teachers reach students who, for whatever reason, can't be in class," Summers said. "If a student is sick, they won't have to feel like they are behind, because they'll get the lesson in anyway. Our teachers have been training this summer, learning how to create lessons that are compatible with a digital format."
The $4.5 million initiative, which the first of its kind at the county level in Mississippi, has already been fully funded without a tax increase.