Thursday, July 9th, 2009
By William Kincaid
Pilot program brings technology to classroom
  Celina City Schools are working to get technology into the hands of its students.
Next school year, every third - and - fourth grade student and teachers will receive hand-held mini computers, known as smart phones, as part of a pilot study program.
"It's a really neat opportunity for our kids and teachers," Celina superintendent Matt Miller said. "It's not going to be used as a toy - it's another method of instruction."
Verizon donated all of the computers, which carry a price tag of around $200, to both the students and teachers. Miller said each device is approximately the size of a cell phone.
School officials only have to pay a service fee.
"I'm hoping that it goes over well and we can expand it," Miller said about the pilot program. "I would hope to expand to the older grades every year."
The devices contain Word, Internet and other computer applications. However, the mini computers do not have phone-calling capabilities.
Miller said any work involving paper and pencils can be done on the new technology, such as note-taking, spelling tests, art projects and workbook projects.
Eventually, the use of such technology could even offset the cost of buying workbooks and other paper products, Miller said.
"We're kind of dipping our foot in this pool and looking at it," Miller said about the possibilities and future applications of the devices.
The teachers in question received two days of training, while parents will be introduced to the new computers - which will remain property of the district - sometime at the beginning of the school year, Miller said.
Such technology is the future of education, Miller said, pointing out officials want to embrace it, not fight it.
Celina learned of the devices through a spring workshop held at Lima and St. Marys Schools.
This spring, Verizon distributed 21 smart phones to third-graders at West School in what Kyle Menchhofer, district technology coordinator, called a potential partnership.
So far, there is no standard definition of a smart phone, but Menchhofer had described the district's new devices as a PDA with Internet access plus a cell phone.
"They've seen test scores go up," Miller said about St. Marys teachers. We have a whole generation of students growing up with technology."
Fort Recovery Local Schools will also experiment with the new technology next school year.
High School Principal Dave Warvel had said a pilot study will go through next school year's advanced English class. Juniors will be given laptop computers to test, which technology coordinator John Jutte said cost $300 each, with the option of an $80 three-year service warranty.
The laptops are half the price of the school's current computers, Jutte pointed out.
Warvel said next year's juniors will evaluate the laptops along with administrators.
If all high school students are equipped with computers - which would belong to them - they could use the mobile device to do their homework and access the Internet anywhere.
Students also would continually be learning and applying 21st century computer skills, such as searching for viable information and using the same applications that they'll use in future jobs, Jutte said.
Every student in the middle and high schools would have their own personal laptop computers if the school administration's plans come to fruition, Superintendent David Riel had said.
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