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Archive for Wednesday, March 31, 2004

Entire Smoky Valley High School student body to get laptops

Board hopes more access to computers will increase learning

March 31, 2004

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— Smoky Valley High School is much quieter since the central-Kansas district decided to buy 340 laptop computers for students.

"People don't talk so much anymore," said Stephanie Britton as she worked on a report in the library. "Even at lunch, they're just like zombies, typing away instead of talking."

School officials hope the students are more than just quiet. Smoky Valley school district officials conducted several years of research before the school board decided in December to purchase an Apple iBook laptop for every high school student -- something just five other school districts in Kansas have done. Administrators looked at other districts across the country and found significant research that more access to computers increases learning.

The laptops arrived in mid-January and started reaching students in the past two weeks as part of a pilot program to run through the end of the school year. More than 80 percent of students are toting the computers. Full implementation is scheduled for August when students return to class.

Students carry the new machines in blue and black backpacks designed to cushion the 800 MHz G4 computers with 30-gig hard drives. A schoolwide wireless network links the computers.

"There have been a few kinks but nothing major," said Principal Fred Van Ranken. "That's why we're doing a pilot program."

School officials are taking advantage of the new computers with specially designed lessons. Staff spent the two previous years working with Colorado-based Mid-continent Research for Education and Learning, which helped them learn to design their lesson plans to better incorporate computers.

Students praised the computers and can be seen using them at tables in the commons area, in the library and even at home.

"It's way easier now to do my homework," said senior Jacalyn Williams, who was working on a report in the library. "I actually do my homework now, and I didn't a lot of times before."

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