While many schools statewide face budget cuts, one rural district in northwest Iowa plans to expand an experimental program that provides every high school student with a laptop computer. Jeff Dicks, superintendent of the Newell-Fonda Schools, says they adopted the program last fall because kids are surrounded by technology –outside– of school, from text messaging and cell phones to on-line games.
"When they come to school, it’s almost like we asked them to power down, turn all those communication devices down and the way that they gauge themselves," Dicks says. "We see a big difference in engagement of students because they know how to go get information, we just didn’t have the tools for them all the time for them to get that information." Newell-Fonda was one of the first high schools in Iowa to supply all students with their own laptops, for use in school and at home.
Dicks says the district hopes to expand the One-to-One laptop program. "Our plan has always been to push it down into our middle school and I even see the benefits of, perhaps not sending the laptop home with elementary students, but having them on carts where they can wheel it in and use that whenever they need it," Dicks says. Other Iowa school districts are just beginning similar laptop programs.
An open house was held this week at the Newell High School where Dicks says teachers, administrators and tech coordinators from 19 school districts learned about the laptop program. He says the visitors were able to go into the classrooms and watch students and see how the teachers worked with them and then got to question the students themselves about the program’s benefits.