Story and photo by Marianne Ward
On Jan. 4, every sixth-grade student in the Waynesville R-VI School District received a Chromebook through a device-to-student program called EDGE, Educating our Digital Generation Effectively.
“I am super excited because we don’t have to share computers in class anymore and I think it will make everything go more efficiently now,” said student Payton Burke.
It’s not only students who are showing enthusiasm for the initiative. Robin Woolsey, technology integration specialist at the Waynesville Sixth Grade Center, looked forward to this first day back following the winter break.
“I was so excited that I couldn’t sleep last night,” she said.
Students received the laptops from the district’s information systems, curriculum and instructional technology offices.
“After months of planning and work, it’s great to see them in the students’ hands,” said Mike Henson, director of curriculum and instructional technology.
“Students kept thanking us over and over for the opportunity,” he continued. “Several said this was the first computer they have ever had, others said the one at home was old and slow, so this would make their homework go so much faster.”
Henson added that while the students are excited, they also understand the responsibility of taking care of a laptop.
Each laptop is assigned to an individual student and the same laptop will follow them through four years of school in the district.
“I feel privileged to be the first,” Burke said. “I know that I need to be more responsible so that I don’t ruin it for other kids.”
The district’s content filters will remain in use on the computer even when it’s at home.
“I’ve been to multiple schools but I have never had the experience of taking (a laptop) home,” said sixth-grade student Oryon Cervantes. “I will be able to do work at home without having to ask my mom for her computer.”
The Chromebooks at the Sixth Grade Center are just the beginning of the district’s one-to-one initiative.
“For the past several years, community members and members of our Comprehensive School Improvement Planning Team have listed increasing the use of technology in the classroom as a high priority for our school district,” said Dr. Brian Henry, superintendent. “In addition, during our Proposition 1 campaign, voters supported our use of the additional funds for technology in the hands of students,” he added.
“Effective use of technology has become a prerequisite for success in colleges and the workforce,” Henry said. “Through this initiative, our students will learn to communicate effectively using tools that only technology can provide.”
The School Board has approved a plan to expand the EDGE program until all students in grades 6-12 have access to a technology device that they may take home by January 2020. Students in grades 3-5 will have cart-based Chromebooks that will remain at school. To allow the Chromebooks to go home with their children, parents will need to attend a parent meeting and sign a permission form. Announcements will be made in advance of EDGE parent sessions.
Funds from Proposition 1, the school tax levy increase passed in April 2017, are speeding up the process. In addition to keeping the district eligible for Federal B-2 Heavily Impacted Aid, Prop 1 provides $600,000 annually in new local revenue for safety and technology.
(Editor’s note: Ward is the director of communications and marketing for the Waynesville R-VI school district.)