One-to-One Initiative Kicks Off at Graettinger/Terril
GRAETTINGER – Students in the Graettinger/Terril Community School District will return to classes this Thursday with a little something extra in their book bags and backpacks – a computer. Students in grades 7-12 turned out last Thursday evening to receive their new laptop computers, officially signally the start of the district’s One-to-One Initiative. Students in fifth and sixth grades receive their computers this evening in a special gathering at Terril.
The One to One initiative involves providing Apple Macbook laptop computers for each student in grades five through 12 in the district, along with software for each machine, as well as training for faculty members. The students and faculty will utilize the computers in their daily educational environment, with instructors integrating the use of the computers into daily classroom settings and assignments. The simple goal of the project is relatively straightforward – to experience improvement in writing skills, student involvement and parental involvement in student achievement through the use of the computers.
The computers were officially checked out to the students during an evening meeting in the G/T gym Thursday night that featured a brief meeting outlining some of the regulations and expectations of the program. Each student is assigned a specific laptop, along with charger and a carrying case. At the end of the school year, the computers will be turned back in to the school. G/T Middle School Principal Chris Richards explained a few of the basic rules, but then, the talk touched an important issue.
“Since these computers belong to the school, we reserve all rights to know what you are doing with them,” Richards pointed out. “We will be able to monitor each machine, and if you are using the computer inappropriately, we will be visiting with you. In extreme situations, the computers can and will be deactivated. Parents, this is also a way that you can be involved in your child’s education by being aware of what your children are viewing on the Internet.”
Graettinger/Terril Technology Director Teresa Alesch explained basic care for the laptops, and what students should do if they experience problems with their units. At that point, the students went to pick up their laptops and then reported to classrooms for a brief orientation and familiarization session with district staff and members of the Apple Computer Educational Support Team.
The idea of integrating laptops into the classroom is growing in popularity in the state, as well as the nation. Graettinger/Terril staff visited the Newell-Fonda district this past school year to learn how the One-to-One initiative worked in a small district.
“It would be naïve for us to think we could throw computers at people and just make it go,” Richards said. “There has been a great deal of training for our faculty before they begin working with the students with the computers.”
G/T High School Principal Jesse Ulrich pointed out that the computers would be an additional classroom tool to be used along with textbooks. “But at the same time, we don’t want to walk into a classroom and see some kids with their noses in their laptop every hour of the school day. That’s just not realistic.”
Several other school districts in the area are also looking at the One-to-One initiative or have also started the process, including Clay Central-Everly, Galva-Holstein and Manson Northwest Webster, The Spirit Lake Community Schools are also implementing the program for this upcoming school year.
“By taking part in the initiative, our students and faculty can build bridges with their counterparts in these schools. That’s a huge door that could open up through this process.” Richards pointed out. “Both Jesse and I are very excited about this project. It is a change that can be a positive bridge to bring our community back into our schools and give us a bridge with other schools.”
The total cost of the One-to-One Initiative is $468,000. Of that cost, $30,000 was for training and peripheral equipment, along with $36,000 for the software needed for the 235 laptops purchased by the district. While the price tag appeared very costly for a small district, pieces of the puzzle fell into place very easily for the district.
According to Graettinger/Terril Superintendent Randy Collins, the majority of funding for the purchase of the computers came from the state’s penny tax for schools. Another deciding factor was the fact that Graettinger/Terril had received $60,000 from the Microsoft Price Fixing Settlement, and one of the conditions was that up to 15 percent of that money could be used for professional development and training for education. Another positive for the initiative was the fact that it can tie into the Iowa Core Development program for the district.
Faculty members received their Macbooks at the end of this Spring, giving them time to familiarize themselves with the machines and to be trained for the initiative. There is an air of anticipation and excitement as the opening day of the new school year approaches.
“Twenty-seven years ago, we created a mission statement for our school to prepare competent students for an ever-changing world,” elementary instructor Becky Masters said. “This is our chance to continue to do just that.”