New laptop computers on the way to Rogersville City School

Jeff Bobo • Mar 8, 2007 at 4:51 AM

ROGERSVILLE - Rogersville City School officials hope to distribute laptop "Tablet PC" computers to every student between the sixth and eighth grades early next month, assuming the computers have arrived by then.

RCS Technology Director Brandy Shelton said Wednesday that a shipment of 270 Fujitsu Tablet PCs headed for Rogersville was currently being held up in an airport terminal somewhere thanks to a federal Food and Drug Administration audit - in what apparently is a routine and random check of freight in transit.

This next delay comes after the Rogersville Board of Education canceled a contract last month to purchase about 220 Tablet PCs from Gateway over a warranty dispute. Originally, school officials hoped to have the Tablet PCs in students' hands by last November.

"I'm hoping to have them in the teachers' hands by the end of this month," Shelton said. "The first week of April is our spring break, so students will hopefully be getting theirs either right before spring break or right after."

Two weeks ago, the school board accepted a $468,000 bid from Technology Express of Tullahoma, Tenn., for the purchase 270 Fujitsu brand Tablet PCs. The Fujitsu bid beat out higher bids from Toshiba and IBM distributors.

The Tablet PCs are expected to familiarize students with using computers while at the same time utilizing new technology to improve classroom instruction.

Each Tablet PC will be connected to a wireless Internet mainframe, and the teachers' tablets will be connected to a wireless projector that can project lessons onto a wall or screen.

"Our Board of Education is addressing technology as a basic skill, so we're looking at integrating technology into the classroom," Shelton said. "Students will use these for day-to-day academics, and eventually all the textbooks will be installed on the tablets. The difference between a regular laptop and a tablet is they will actually be able to write on the screen, so like if their math book is on the screen, they can put their answers there and then print it."

Unfortunately for students this school year, they'll be receiving their Tablet PCs with only about a month left in the school year. Shelton said that month will be used to familiarize teachers and students with the computers, and the goal is to incorporate them more into the summer school curriculum.

By the beginning of the 2007-08 school year, the Tablet PCs will be integrated into the curriculum and students should be allowed to take their Tablet PC home every day after school.

That's a big reason why the BOE insisted on "next business day" repair service on the warranty. Children can be careless, and all of their schoolwork and textbooks will be on their individual computer.

The Board of Education was unable to come to an agreement on the warranty with Gateway, but Shelton said she and other school officials were pleased with the Fujitsu warranty plan.

The Fujitsu deal is a bit more expensive than the Gateway deal, which was going to cost the system just shy of $300,000.

The incoming 2007-08 sixth-graders will receive a new Tablet PC that will stay with that student the next three years until eighth-grade graduation. At graduation, students will be given an opportunity to purchase the computer at fair market value.

The same cycle will be true for all future sixth-graders, but Shelton said the incoming seventh- and eighth-graders probably won't be given the option of buying their tablets.

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