Board aims high with 1:1 computer initiative

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

By the second semester of the next school year, about 1,200 Cape Girardeau Central High School students would have portable computers in their hands under a proposal from a technology committee, though the funding is far from guaranteed.

Recommendations for a pilot program that would cost an estimated $976,000 to provide portable computers for all students at the school were presented at a special meeting of the Cape Girardeau Board of Education on Tuesday.

Members of the district's Action Research Committee, formed six months ago to study the feasibility of the "1:1" initiative that ultimately seeks to put the computers in the hands of every student in the district, recommended the program begin for some 1,200 Cape Girardeau Central High School students during the 2013-14 school year.

"Our students must be ready to compete in a global, technological society," said Dr. Sherry Copeland, assistant superintendent and chairwoman of the committee. "The sooner we start indoctrinating them with the technology they'll need for finding jobs or going off to college, the better off we'll be."

The committee informed the school board that at the start of the 2013-14 school year, teachers should be given a computer along with a tutorial to ensure they understand the devices before students from grades 9 through 12 are issued computers to begin the second semester.

According to Copeland, students would be able to access information about their lessons on computers and send homework to teachers online given an Internet infrastructure mostly is in place at the high school.

"This way, a teacher can grade the work of a student and send it back to them without having to spend class time doing so," she said. "At the same time, students will be learning computer skills that we hope will last them a lifetime."

Theresa Taylor, computer instructor at Central High School and member of the committee, agreed.

"This is a way for me to teach kids in a way that they want to learn from," Taylor said. "They don't want to learn the way I learned."

The committee also recommended the "1:1" program be applied to a list of core classes to be decided before implementation. But it was the cost of the computers -- at nearly $1 million -- that had committee members and board members at a loss.

"We don't have the answers to funding," Copeland said, suggesting funding possibilities could take the form of grants, donations, partnerships or fundraisers.

Board member Don Call asked if the district could lease computers at a lower cost. Copeland said it would cost more to lease them than to buy them, which prompted board Phillip Moore to say the district wouldn't be buying any "Cadillac devices." He suggested looking for older, still usable models.

Dr. James Welker, superintendent, called funding for the program an "unknown."

"The big question that remains is how to fund the program," Welker said. "We'll look at grants and contributions, certainly, but I can't say that I have an answer. It's something we'll have to figure out."

The district might look to the Sikeston Public School District in Sikeston, Mo., for funding guidance.

According Michelle Gilmer, instructional technology specialist for the Sikeston School District, a grant has been applied for by the school district and an answer is expected by May.

"We're looking to provide computers for our ninth-grade class next year," Gilmer said. "It's going to cost about $250,000. We've received positive feedback from the school board, but I'm sure the board's decision will be based on whether or not we get the grant."

klewis@semissourian.com

388-3635

Pertinent address: 301 N. Clark St., Cape Girardeau, Mo.

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