3Qs: Fred Hill, Tupelo assistant superintendent

By Chris Kieffer

The Tupelo Public School District will begin a new era this week when all of its sixth- to 12th-grade students will have laptop computers to use as learning devices. Tupelo Assistant Superintendent Fred Hill spoke with Daily Journal education reporter Chris Kieffer about the expected impact of the new program.
Q: How will the computers change the classroom experience?
A: This is just one of a few steps we will take in making the Tupelo Public School District a place of 21st century learning. The key is being able to reach digital natives. We are teaching by technology, which is very familiar to a lot of our students.
We will be using more inquiry-based and project-and-problem-based learning. One of the goals is to minimize our dependency on textbooks, if not eliminate our dependency.
You will see more lessons delivered based upon critical thinking, collaboration and problem solving of teachers and students.
Q: How are teachers being trained to use to new technology to enhance education?
A: The very first step was that all teachers received “out of box training.” We covered the basics of how to use the computers and some basic information on the applications installed on some of the computers.
The second step was to create a “trainer of trainers” model. Teachers and staff from each school go through 10 days of detailed training, and they will be able to go back and train other teachers at their school.
Professional development will be ongoing throughout the year.
Q: How will the Tupelo Public School District measure the success of the laptop initiative?
A: We will be following the same process we use to measure any other program. A cost-benefit analysis will be conducted on a year-to-year basis. There will be some instant results, but it will take three to five years to fully see the results, just like any other major change in any organization.
We will be making sure teachers are using them with their method of instruction and that students are responding positively to those methods.
A key thing with this program is that it will decrease the digital divide among our students. That is another key indicator of the success of this program, and it will be evidenced in student performance.