Seventh-graders granted laptops

By Paula Cronic:PNT Staff Writer

Portales Junior High School will issue all its seventh-graders a brand-new Hewlett-Packard laptop computer soon in order to enhance their education and learning skills. This is the first year for the program in Portales.

After originally applying for the Laptop Initiative state grant last year to fund the laptops, the school was denied. Undeterred, PJHS Assistant Principal Glenda Meeks applied for the grant again, and this year the school was awarded 225 of the maximum 233 laptops the grant allows.

“Technology is such a big part of our world,” Meeks said. “It’s more important that our students start getting more immersed in it because by the time they get out of school, it’s really going to be a part of everything they do.”

As part of a requirement for the grant, teachers will have to undergo 18 days of training in order to learn how to integrate the new technology into their classrooms.

Parents and students will be informed about the dos and don’ts of using the laptops, and will have to participate in i-SAFE training on the hazards of the Internet, according to PJHS Principal Steve Harris.
He said there are multiple ways the students will use the computers in the classroom, with one way being access to one of the school’s software programs called A+.

“It has all of the core subject area curriculums on the computer so they can actually access that in their classrooms through their computers and actually follow the (curriculums),” Harris said.

Also, students will be allowed to do research on the Web and will have an electronic folder on their computer to turn in their assignments. Teachers will be allowed to access that folder to grade material.

Harris said the district will be wiring the school with wireless Internet so students will be able to access the Internet and the school’s Intranet anywhere on campus. To protect the laptops from students downloading material onto the computers, a program called Deep Freeze is being installed in each computer.

“Every time they turn the computer off and reboot, the program takes everything off of it that they downloaded and it takes it back to the original programming,” he said.

Students will be allowed to take the computers home. If parents have an Internet service provider, students will be allowed to access the Internet at home.

The laptops will stay with the students throughout the course of their junior high and high school careers, up through the 12th grade.

The school has received the computers, but it will still be another couple of weeks before they will be ready for use. Harris said they should be issued by mid- to late September.

Meeks said the school will have to re-apply for the grant every year in order for each incoming group of seventh-graders to receive laptops.