Skyler Flaig-Jacobs, 11, sat in his sixth-grade social studies class at Carson Middle School, studying ancient India on the laptop computer open on his desk.
He prefers it to a textbook.
“If you don’t know something, there’s a lot of ways you can find it out,” he said. “We can search on Google or we can ask some of the other students.”
Skyler is part of a pilot program where each student received a laptop to use at school as well as at home, where he can access all of his assignments online as well as his grades in all of his classes, along with limited access to the Internet and email.
“We’re trying to get them to be in control of their own learning,” said Vicki Crickon, one of the teachers leading the program. “It gives them the wheel.”
Now, every middle-schooler in the Carson City School District will have the same opportunity, as part of a program being rolled out this month. Meetings were held in December at both middle schools to give parents information about the project. It also will be the focus of the student-led conferences Thursday at Eagle Valley Middle School and Jan. 27 at Carson Middle School.
Additional parent meetings will be held 5:50 p.m. Thursday at Carson Middle School and Jan. 22 at Eagle Valley Middle School.
Students will receive their laptops, which they will be allowed to take home, Feb. 19-28.
“We are no longer limited to the four walls of the classroom,” said LeAnn Morris, technology integration specialist for the Carson City School District. “The world really now becomes our classroom.”
Although Internet access will be available from any location with broadband cards installed in each device, Associate Superintendent of Education Susan Keema said student safety is the priority.
“We have built-in, high-end filters,” she said. “They supercede any filters a parent could install at home.”
As part of the training before receiving the laptops, she said, students will be given a course in digital citizenship, which covers nine elements, including security, digital law, rights and responsibilities, etiquette and others.
She encouraged parents to apply the same limits for computer use at home to the devices being distributed to the students.
“Parents are still the parents,” Keema said. “When the child takes the device home, the parents set the rules for them.”
The One-to-One Digital program was set forth as a priority for the district in the strategic plan developed last year with help from the community. While it had been put in place in various groups in the district, a grant from the Community Foundation of Western Nevada made it possible to fund a universal rollout.
Contingent upon certain guidelines being met with the first phase, the foundation will fund the distribution of mobile devices to third- through fifth-graders in the fall and to high-schoolers in the spring of 2015.
“A lot of groundwork have been done toward teacher training,” said Valerie Dockery, director of grants and special projects. “We’re confident we’re going to have a successful rollout.”
Pilot programs began three years ago at Carson Middle School, using digital devices in certain classrooms and with certain groups of students. Principal Dan Sadler received the Nevada Commission on Educational Technology Digital Learning Day Award of Excellence this year for the school’s work on implementing the program.
Janice Townsend, information technology director for the Carson City School District, said it is important that all students have access to the technology they will use as they move onto college or into careers.
“We’re tasked with creating 21st century learners,” she said. “We have to provide them with 21st century tools.”