By Dennis Seid/NEMS Daily Journal
PONTOTOC – A pilot project bringing “complete” technology packages to 24 classrooms in Pontotoc, Union and Lee counties is the start of what officials hope will become standard across the region.
“Students right now are competing globally,” said Randy Kelley, executive director of Three Rivers Planning and Development District, one of the sponsors of the project. “We need to provide them with the workforce skills and the tools they need to compete.”
Each classroom gets a mobile interactive whiteboard for the teacher, a fixed touch-screen interactive whiteboard, clickers for students to interact with their responses and examination software.
Each package is valued between $4,500 to $5,000 and includes professional development services.
The $112,000 project was paid for through the Appalachian Regional Commission, Three Rivers and education technology company eInstruction.
The company donated half the packages, while an ARC grant will pay for the rest.
Twenty-one of the packages have been installed.
Pontotoc Middle School sixth-grade teacher Shanna Daniel has one of the school’s two technology packages and said she was excited and impressed with its capabilities.
In a classroom with the technology, students have to answer questions posed by the teacher with their clickers. Their responses show up on the teacher’s mobile interactive screen.
“It gives me an opportunity to immediately know what the students know. … and it lets me know if I need to do a little more teaching,” Daniel said.
The University of Mississippi’s Center for Educational Research and Evaluation will help evaluate the project. It will pull together results by the end of the semester and present the findings.
Officials hope those results will lead to implementation of the project in every classroom.
“We believe it’s important to look at the results and quantify them and take them to the decision-makers to let them know this is something everybody should have an opportunity to have,” said Bill Renick of Three Rivers.
“We’re hoping to have this in place in all eight school districts,” Renick said. “The key is finding the funding for it.”
Three Rivers’ service area includes Calhoun, Chickasaw, Itawamba, Lafayette, Lee, Monroe, Pontotoc and Union counties.
Among the dignitaries attending the announcement was U.S. Sen. Roger Wicker, R-Miss., who praised the public-private partnerships, along with state, local and federal work to get the project. He said private funding would be a key to expanding.
Samir Joglekar, senior vice president for eInstruction, said the packages are more than just equipment and software – it’s also about integrating teachers’ lessons plans, utilizing core curriculum standards and complementing what schools already have.
“We’ve always had technology in the classroom. … but this is a unique approach to put it all together and take it to the next level,” he said.
The technology packages can be used at any level, and Joglekar said they’re being used in kindergarten through 12th grade classrooms in every state.
“As school districts look to bring best practices into the classroom, bridge the gap to higher level learning and meet new digital assessment requirements, it has become increasingly important to fully evaluate the many solutions and products available in the market,” he said.
The schools receiving the new technology packages are:
1 at North Pontotoc Elementary
1 at North Pontotoc Upper Elementary
2 at South Pontotoc Elementary
2 at D.T. Cox Elementary School
2 at Pontotoc Middle School
4 at New Albany Elementary
1 at Ingomar Attendance Center
1 at Myrtle Attendance Center
1 at East Union Attendance Center
1 at West Union Attendance Center
4 at Plantersville Middle School
2 at Milam Elementary School
1 at Baldwyn Middle School
1 at Nettleton Primary School