Laptops, Tablets Come to St. Johns Middle School

When St. John's Middle School Principal Adel DiOrio wants to know something, she admits she's not looking to anything printed on paper.

"As an adult, if I need information, do I actually go to a hardcopy encyclopedia Britannica?" she said. "No, I grab my phone and I Google it."

And with kids already more familiar with cell phones than she is, DiOrio says the new influx of classroom technology can only benefit students.

"When you think of the level of development of these kids where they already are technologically, it's a perfect opportunity to put these devices in their hands," she said. "When you picture what it's going to look like in the classroom, it's not just a gadget. It's not a shiny new toy, it's a tool teachers are going to use to impact student learning, to impact their own teaching and that part gets me very excited."

A $5.1 million grant is giving the district nearly 1,400 Dell laptops and more than 400 Samsung tablets. The middle school of more than 700 students will have 18 portable carts containing 18 laptops each, plus two carts of 18 tablets.

"It is the new frontier," said DiOrio. "Just like before we have the legal obligation and the moral obligation to provide these kids with a high quality education to provide them the preparation they need to be successful in their lives. But now we have additional tools to do that."

Those tools also include refurbished computer labs, and carts in every classroom containing a system of two projectors, a document cam and a variety of plug-ins and adapters.

I think the students are in for an awesome opportunity and experience and the teachers are ready for it," said Superintendent Dedrick Martin. "When our kids get to interact with technology and updated technology they're really able to communicate to the rest of the world their thinking, their feeling, their whole way of interacting.."

Martin sees the technology as a stepping stone for students to a place in the increasingly global economy, providing more mediums for expression and outlets fro creativity.

And with kids already familiar with how most technology works, the focus will be on teaching them to use it the right way.

"We really have to teach them to use it in a responsible way to get information to access information and to get them to demonstrate and express their understanding using technological devices," Martin said.

DiOrio agreed.

"It's not a matter of using technology for technology's sake," she said. "It's a matter of using technology to impact student learning. And that's a really important distinction."

At St. John's Middle School, students will have to return their devices to their teacher following each class, though they are encouraged to bring their own devices from home if they have them.

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