A new school year brings new friends, new teachers, and a new set of text books. Starting this year, all those books will be digital in one of the state's school systems. Huntsville is the first district in the United States to make a district-wide conversion from a paper to a digital curriculum. The superintendent is comfortable with this.
Superintendent Casey Wardynski believes in the next five years this will be the norm. He knows lots of others will be watching to see how well digital books and laptops mesh with students on a daily basis.
17,000 laptop computers and 5,000 ipads have been delivered and inspected. Their final destination? Huntsville.
"We really need to think beyond brick and mortar, beyond the school day and the normal school building. And the best way to do that is to do what has happened to adults. Provide technology so work can become ubiquitous and education can become ubiquitous," said superintendent, Casey Wardynski
He will oversee the district-wide digital conversion.
"We had devices, but they were tied to buildings. They were libraries. They were in media rooms," he said.
where the students go, so will their laptops. For the past year,
they've tested the system in fifth grade classrooms. Teacher Stacey
Beshers says her job has become more efficient.
"They save us enormous amounts of time just the fact that we can do everything at our desks instead of running to the lab and the library to do research we can finish a project in one day where it used to take us a week," she said.
Teachers have countless resources at their fingertips.
"A teacher can do things like mark up their addition of the teacher's text book, maybe they highlight it, maybe they make notes. They can push that down onto the kid's versions. The kids can download their highlighting and markups in a file for them to keep. Well how different is that from a world last year when we would tell the kids 'hey don't write in the text books'," said Wardynski.
Convenience wasn't the
driving force behind the switch. Wardynksi feared students would
struggle in college if technology were not a priority in grade school.
Fifth grader Brittany Okweye participated in the pilot program
"They make things more easy going for us and they teach us responsibility,"she said.
What happens if a laptop is misplaced or stolen?
"The computer will come equipped with lojack. If the computer doesn't log in periodically from a school, it turns into a brick. It wont work," said Wardynski.
What about online predators?
"Parents don't have to worry about where is my child exploring on the Internet because if its done at home they'll pass through Alabama super computer filters, if they're in the school they'll pass through our filters. So that takes care of child online protection," he said.
Wardynski says he expects some push back but he's not worried.
"Our focus needs to be children and their needs, not the needs of adults. A lot of the push back you get is 'I don't want to adapt, I don't want to learn' from adults. And we ought to be at the forefront of learning and adaptation," said Wardynski.