Nothing can take the place of a great teacher in a classroom, but technology can also broaden a student's educational horizon, providing schools with new, exciting tools. Here's a peek at five cool gadgets and high-tech systems in Lawrence schools.
This year, the entire district will enjoy an upgraded wireless infrastructure. Until now, Lawrence schools didn't have the capacity to support wireless devices such as iPads and laptops.
The change brings increased mobility to the classroom, said Jerri Kemble, Lawrence schools' assistant superintendent for educational programs and technology.
"It's a huge piece of making everything else happen," she said. "It will allow students and teachers not to be tethered to a desk any longer."
The school district has gifted more than 3,000 mobile laptops to its schools for the upcoming year. The Macbook Air and Dell XPS computers will be made available to students and join the 1,000 laptops already set aside for teachers.
"Those mobile devices will really change what learning looks like in our classrooms," Kemble said.
This spring, the Lawrence school board approved the purchase 125 iPads for each middle school and 600 for the K-12 blended classrooms, Kemble said. It brings the total number of district-purchased iPads to 1,100.
The tablets will allow students to become "content creators and not just content consumers," Kemble said. Among the benefits of an iPad in the classroom: Students can shoot and produce their own films.
The school district is also looking into the possibility of fusing robotics with the iPads. Last year, a Lawrence Virtual High School student used a telepresence robot (essentially an iPad on wheels) to attend prom while she was away in California.
It's that kind of technology that Kemble wants to "integrate" into classrooms. Currently, the district has two iPad robots.
Kemble said she's excited about the "utilization of online programs" in schools, such as Blackboard, eBackpack and Microsoft OneDrive.
These programs will enable teachers to provide more educational resources for students, accessible at home, at school and anywhere.
Students can also collaborate together on group projects online.
"They can write a paper on their phone if they want to," Kemble said.
Lawrence Public Schools website
The district will unveil its new website Oct. 31, a move that Kemble said will "allow more community and parent engagement with our schools."
Teachers can add videos and links while visitors to the site will enjoy more interactive features.
For example, parents and students can create their own event calendars to align with their schedules.
"If I'm a parent and I have one student in volleyball and another in football, I can create my own dashboard of information that is very personal to me," Kemble said. "Our parents will be able to personalize the information they get."