It was a big day in the Orange County School District this week, as nearly 2,500 students were issued new MacBooks, according to the Orlando Sentinel. Along with the laptops came some new cases, something that may help prevent these devices from having to be sent in for MacBook repair, as students aren't exactly known for being the most careful with tools such as these at all times.
With these new laptops in tow, seven different Orange County schools will see laptops and even iPads used as part of a digital technology pilot program that will allow them to use these devices instead of having to take paper notes, take the devices home or do their work. After spending nearly $14 million on the project, including infrastructure upgrades and training, the county is poised to take off in the schools where the program is happening. Even so, school board member Christine Moore said the district won't be able to expand the program to the other schools with the current funding, so there will likely be a wait-and-see approach taken to how these devices are utilized.
“Frankly, it's always going to be a struggle to provide a device for every child,” said Diane Lewis, director of instructional technology for Seminole schools. “But most students have smartphones or some device they can bring.”
The National Center for Educational Statistics said that as of the most recent statistics in 2009, 40 percent of teachers said they or their students use computers during instructional periods in the classroom often and 29 percent sometimes. Students use computers in other locations during instructional time often 29 percent of the time and sometimes 43 percent of the time, with other technology, such as LCD screens and digital light processing projectors, also becoming more widely used.
Success possible with laptops
The New York Times reported last year that in East Mooresville Intermediate School, students and teachers alike were seeing great success with using MacBooks to help improve education. Mark Edwards, superintendent of the district, said it is less about which device they have used to help make changes and more about how the devices have been used to change the culture and prepare students for the future.
“Other districts are doing things, but what we see in Mooresville is the whole package: using the budget, innovating, using data, involvement with the community and leadership,” said Karen Cator, director of educational technology for the United States Department of Education, according to the news source. “There are lessons to be learned.”