Learning laptop lessons

By Casey Peacock: PNT Staff Reporter

A program that provided a laptop computer to every seventh-grader at Portales Junior High School last year was a big success according to teachers and administrators. The school is looking forward to expansion of the program this year.

According to principal Steve Harris, returning eighth-graders will be re-issued laptops that were part of a grant received by the school last year. A verbal notification has been received that incoming seventh-graders will also receive laptops courtesy of a grant.
“Last year they were very beneficial,” Harris said.

An added bonus is the availability of wireless Internet throughout the whole school that allows more access to the Internet. Filters are on the school’s network that prevents students from accessing areas of the Internet they should not, Harris said.

During the past school year, teachers Donna Hammons and Ginger Golden used the computers to help teach their students a variety of lessons. Not only did using the computers help to develop computer skills, but they also allowed students to take virtual tours of places they were reading about in class, via scholastic.com, the teachers said.

The duo, who teach English, also utilized a program that allowed the students to design their own book jacket. Through the experience they learned the different parts that are associated with a book jacket, Hammons said.

“They loved that one,” Hammons said of the book jacket project.

Harris stated that staff members receive training on how to integrate the laptops into the classroom. Students also receive training to help them learn about the laptops. Parent orientation is also held to educate parents on why it is important to use the laptops in the classroom and signs to watch out for to help the students stay out of trouble when using the Internet.

Students are allowed to take the computers home and they can be used by family members. During school hours, school personnel are responsible for monitoring how the students use the computers, once they leave campus it is the parents’ responsibility. Insurance is available to cover damage that the laptops may incur, Harris said.

“Basically it’s covered for just about everything but theft,” Harris said.

Citing computers as the technology of the future, both teachers emphasized that the students were more excited to learn with the availability of the laptops to help them. With limited space in the computer lab, the laptops allow for everyone to work together at the same time, such as doing research or taking the virtual tours, they said.

“It makes it more meaningful for the kids,” Golden said.