Penn Manor supports laptop computer plan
nSchool board approves $578,000 project to equip, enable all high school students. BY ELAINE J. JONES, Correspondent
Penn Manor School District is moving forward with a plan to furnish laptop computers to every student in the high school next year.
The one-to-one laptop learning program was pitched to the school board last month as a way to provide "equity of access" to all students in grades 9 through 12.
All eight board members who were present at the meeting Monday voted yes to the $578,000 expenditure, which will put a netbook-style laptop in the hands of every student next January.
A select population of the school will receive laptops at the beginning of the school year, including students taking online open campus classes and others who will make up the student laptop tech support team.
Charlie Reisinger, district technology director, said Monday he also plans to begin professional development with all high school teachers in the fall.
"To foster deep curriculum connections, we will provide extra technology training to a lead teacher representative from each academic department," Reisinger said.
The lead teachers from various course subjects will be "key bridges between new technology and learning," he said.
Reisinger said he is biding his time before making any early purchasing decisions.
"Any technology device we review today may change in three months," he said regarding the specific model of laptop being considered. Laptop pricing is always a moving target, he explained. "It's similar to the stock market. Technology prices change continuously."
Based on a 4-year life cycle, Reisinger said the best laptop choice is a device that could be upgraded and updated. He said district officials also would review the logistics and legality of a student buy-back program to recoup some costs.
Because students are permitted to take the laptops home, the board also agreed to enforce a "you break it, you bought it" policy regarding damage that occurs off school property. Families who do not agree to be liable for damage outside of school would be given the option of keeping their student's device at school.
"We're going to have purely accidental damage at some point. It is unavoidable," Reisinger conceded.
The board also saw a preview of the free open-source Ubuntu software that will be loaded on the laptops. The software package contains learning software programs including math, science, writing and 3-D design tools.
"Students will have access to a large menu of excellent academic technologies. We're very excited to personalize our students' learning experiences," Reisinger said.
More details about the program can be found on the district's techblog at http://www.pennmanor.net/techblog/.
Also, the board approved the creation of a new data specialist position. The person will assist Reisinger and the district's seven-member technology staff.
In other business:
Middle school principals Christine Santaniello and Dana Edwards recommended changes to the district's middle school foreign language program. Currently, the district offers Spanish I in place of reading in 8th grade to the highest achieving students based on a variety of assessments.
Under the new proposal, Spanish I will be offered over two years. High achieving students in 7th and 8th grade will receive 3 cycle days of Spanish instruction and 3 cycle days of enriched reading instruction to better prepare them for high school literacy.
Superintendent Michael Leichliter announced that a poster designed by freshman Casie Johnson was selected by the Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board for a campaign to discourage underage drinking.
Her design will be on display in the Capital Rotunda beginning April 19.