OXFORD — Five years after a stuttering attempt to integrate computer technology in classrooms, district officials say the latest round of laptop purchases for students is a success. Addressing SAD 17 School Board Directors on Monday night, Oxford Hills High School Principal Ted Moccia, middle school principal Troy Eastman and technical school director Shawn Lambert school said the latest initiative has benefited from higher quality laptops and focused planning.

In 2009, the school district purchased Acer Aspire One Netbook—basic, inexpensive laptops—for every student in grades 9 through 12 for $460,000, according to Sun Journal records.

At the time, the Maine Department of Education reached an agreement with Apple to purchase 100,000 notebooks and resell them to school districts. Middle schools would be reimbursed for the purchase, though high schools would have to pick up the bill.

The district choose to purchase the netbooks in lieu of the state’s solution over concerns that cost for upgrading the infrastructure would be too high.

Four years later, the district scrapped the program, saying it failed to successfully integrate technology into the classroom.

At the time, Technology Director Mike Dunn said students didn’t value the computers, and couldn’t be relied upon to bring the devices to classes, forcing teachers to devise alternative lesson plans.

Last June, the district changed tracks, spending $327,000 to supply middle and high school students and staff with Macbook Air computers, revamping its curriculum in the process.

After a year that move, principals said, has paid off.

“We’re setting a tone that we’re going to be innovative in our classrooms,’ Eastman said. “Our middle and high school has been brought together with the use of these laptops.”

In a video shot and edited using the computers, high school students and staff attested that the computers have been a worthwhile investment.

“This is the technology the kids need,’ one teacher said.

Classroom instruction has evolved through their introduction, teachers said. Teachers can offer input on essays in real-time by posting edits on google docs—a repository of documents accesible by anyone with an internet connection and permission to view—while students are learning to produce movies and use a 3-d design software.

Lessons extended beyond the classroom. One testimonial described how students are able to collaborate with teachers on research papers, getting immediate feedback. Parents can even keep up their children’s grades.

“Our goal is to look at this in an interactive way,’ Moccia said.

In physics classes, teachers highlighted how students are able to graph the output of energy generated under simple experiments.

Another teacher noted the computer had “revolutionized’ how she taught.

Lambert tempered some of the optimism, explaining that laptops have become typical in classrooms and, computer savvy a common qualification for jobs. Still, he noted, the move was necessary to prepare students for the workforce.

A technology integration position created in the school district’s $37.65 million budget— approved by directors in May—will help teachers enhance instruction.

“It’s not ever going to replace the teacher, just how we’re instructing,’ Moccia said.

School board director Jared Cash hoped the program would entice future generations to attend college and stay in Maine.


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