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Chatham school system launches high school computer plan

Posted Wednesday, August 24, 2005

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Pittsboro, NC - Chatham County Schools has embarked on a computer initiative that will put Apple iBook laptops into the hands of all high school teachers this fall and give all students in grades nine through twelve access to multiple carts with classroom sets of iBooks. The ambitious program is called a 1 to 1 Learning program.

“Our team has spent a tremendous amount of time considering the overall curriculum needs in high school and the logistical steps of beginning such a large, unique program. How the 1-to-1 Learning program will help our high school students and teachers in twenty-first century learning has been at the heart of every discussion we've had in this process,” said Dr. Ann Hart, Superintendent.

A team from the school system, including Board of Education members, central office and technology department staff, and high school administrators, has worked since last spring to make the vision a reality for high school students and teachers. Apple, which has this type of program in other school districts across the nation, has worked alongside the Chatham County district through the process of implementing the program.

Teachers received their computers on August 23 during a kickoff event followed by an initial technology training session. Teachers will have access to continual training throughout the fall semester as they work toward making the technology part of their regular classroom lessons.

This school year will be the third that Greene County, in eastern North Carolina, has had a 1 to 1 Learning program for its students. A group from Chatham County visited Greene County Schools last spring to observe how that district has implemented 1 to 1 Learning.

There are several reasons for starting this initiative at the high school level. Governor Michael Easley has taken steps toward high school reform. Educators anticipate that a senior project is likely coming in the near future. Requirements for having computers at college have increased over the past few years. Educators recognize that the business community needs students, who will be future employees, to be well prepared in computer technology abilities.

One of the long-range goals of Chatham County Schools is for each high school student to have his or her own laptop to use at school and home. Additionally, the district has another goal to bring the 1 to 1 Learning Initiative into its middle and elementary schools.

A number of teachers have been part of a technology group over the course of the past three years. They have already been using carts filled with classroom sets of iBooks to enhance their lessons. Teachers new to the program will be able to observe these veteran users in teaching settings during their planning periods. Several elementary and middle schools in the district have the laptop carts in use as well. Each of the iBooks has wireless Internet capability that works with the multiple Apple AirPort Extreme wireless base stations housed around the schools.

The district has been required to upgrade computers in all schools in preparation for changing from the SIMS system, which housed student data, to NC WISE, an enhanced state-mandated system for working with student data. Teachers will use computers in the 1 to 1 Learning program for NC WISE purposes as well as for classroom use.

“We are thrilled to see what began as a seemingly impossible dream begin to come true. The endless opportunities our teachers and students can experience by having the iBooks as tools for success make our classrooms even more exciting places to be,” said Peggy Douglas, Director of Technology.

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