ROGERSVILLE - It was six months later than hoped, but Rogersville City School's "upperclassmen" and teachers received their laptop computer earlier this month, making RCS the first school in Tennessee to provide every student with their own PC.
Rather than dwelling on the laptops' late arrival for the 2006-07 school year, RCS technology director Brandy Shelton prefers to look at it as getting a head start on 2007-08.
The school originally planned on their arrival in November, but a warrantee contract dispute with the original vender resulted in the school going with a new company.
About 215 Fujitsu "PC Tablet" laptop computers have been distributed to the RCS sixth-, seventh- and eighth-graders who are familiarizing themselves with the ways that the new computers will be applied to classroom learning full time beginning with the upcoming summer school. Another 55 teacher's edition laptops have also been distributed.
The overall cost of the project exceeded $300,000.
"We got the laptops in later than we wanted to and we've only got a month left before summer vacation, but we want to see how much progress we can make with them in that month," Shelton said. "It really has turned out to be perfect timing because the state testing is behind us and we can devote the time to the tablets. Our school board has really recognized technology as a basic skill and that's kind of the driving force behind this."
Aside from serving as a valuable learning tool for the classroom, the laptops are also intended to help meet a federal No Child Left Behind requirement that all eighth-graders must be technologically literate.
The school is calling it's computer initiative Project SM@RT (Success Matters At Rogersville Tennessee). Sixth-grade social studies teacher Alice Brooks said most of the students are already well schooled in the use of computers so incorporating them into the classroom hasn't been difficult.
"They're picking it up fast," Brooks said. "They're putting at least three hours per day on the computers, and I can say that most of my students are already very knowledgeable about the basics. Right now the new hasn't worn off and the laptops hold their attention a lot better.
"These kids have grown up on computers, so this has gone remarkably well."
In the short term the workload for teachers and students has increased as they train on the computers and work them into the curriculum. In the long run, however, Brooks said she believes the computers will make classroom instruction much easier.
The laptops will serve many uses for students, not the least of which will eventually be downloading textbooks so that all the information in their books will be a "point and click" away.
Students can take the laptops home after school and they're expected to be a valuable tool for homework as well.
Brooks said she can foresee textbooks eventually becoming obsolete at RCS as the laptops become more integrated into the curriculum.
"If I were their age and carrying the text books they have to carry - if we can have them downloaded onto the computers I'd never pick up another textbook," Brooks said.
The laptops are installed with wireless technology that allows teachers to send students their assignments directly and students can e-mail them back to the teachers. The teachers' laptop is also connected to a projector which will will basically replace the chalkboard.
Sixth-grader Logan Jarnagin pointed out that the laptops are also capable of sending wireless messages from student to student which means the age old practice of passing notes in class may become obsolete as well. But, what Jarnagin said he likes best about it is having immediate access to the Internet rather than having to wait his turn to use a library computer.
"I think the best part about these laptops is you can carry them around anywhere," Jarnagin said. "It's got a pen that lets you write on the screen. And, we get to pick any screen saver we want."
Jarnagin went with a University of Southern California Trojan football action shot for his screen saver.
Beginning with the next school year graduating eighth-graders will have the option of purchasing their laptops at its fair market value.