Delaware News

District may buy laptops for Dempsey students

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The Delaware City School District is in the exploratory stages of giving every seventh-grader at Dempsey Middle School his or her own personal laptop computer for educational purposes.

Many other districts around the country have explored or adopted the One-to-One Program to provide technology for students to use in the classroom.

Assistant Superintendent Brad Faust said the goal of the program is to indoctrinate students on what will be expected of them in a technology-based world.

"A lot of students have some device, whether it's a smartphone or an iPad, but we don't want them just using these for social and entertainment purposes," he said. "We want them to learn the skills they need for their future education or career."

Stan McDonald, the district's technology director, said students can learn collaboration skills, word processing, data processing, importing and uploading files, research skills and more through these devices.

"We want to teach them how we function with technology in order to work and communicate for learning purposes," McDonald said.

Faust said the computer is a tool to be used for instruction, but the most important thing isn't the technology.

"It's just a tool. The most important thing is what they can do with it and how it will improve their life," Faust said.

One of the components of the program will be professional development that allows educators to get up to speed on their computer skills.

McDonald said the district will ask instructors to design lesson plans that will make it necessary for students to use the technology, so it's imperative they learn the skills themselves.

"The teachers are not teaching technology; they are teaching students. We want them to be comfortable enough with the technology so they can instruct students," he said.

Faust and McDonald are working with administrators, teachers and the technology department to determine which skills are necessary for students to learn.

"We are asking what is expected of students once they leave our district, whether it's for college, the military or a career," McDonald said.

One required skill that has been reported back to them by former students who have moved on to college is the ability to be proficient in researching for writing papers.

Many of the students' textbooks already have an online component and some can be downloaded and read via computer.

Teachers have begun to incorporate Google Apps and Google Drive into lessons; this will continue when students have their own computers as well.

"Students use computers regularly in their education, but we believe we need to step it up in order to teach them the skills they need right now to be able to manage themselves for their jobs and in their personal lives," McDonald said.

Students would keep the computers through seventh and eighth grades, and Faust said the district will consider instituting a mandated "bring your own device to school" policy once students reach high school.

There are more than 400 seventh-graders who will need a device, and Faust said a combination of school funds and grants will pay for them.

"It's a cost, but it's our job to give students what they need," he said.

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