Tupelo hopes to expand school laptop use

TUPELO – The Tupelo Public School District hopes to have laptop computers for its students and teachers in the sixth through 12th grades by next year.
And they’re currently exploring options with Apple, which administrators in the district visited last week at the company’s headquarters in Cupertino, Calif.
The “lofty” goal, said Superintendent Randy Shaver, is to find a way to get a laptop computer for at least every sixth- through 12th-grade teacher during the current school year and to start the 2010-11 school year with a laptop computer available to every sixth-through-12th-grade student.
The goal also includes computer carts for kindergarten to fifth-grade classrooms.
To meet these goals and additional expansion of technology, Shaver said the district leaders will look at all funding options, including grants.
Eight administrators from the district met with Apple on Thursday and Friday in day-long executive briefings about the use of Apple technology as a teaching and learning tool.
At the briefings were Shaver, School Board President Mike Clayborne, assistant superintendents Diana Ezell and Fred Hill, public information officer Kay Bishop, technology coordinator Brenda Merriweather, director of operations Julie Hinds and finance director Linda Pannell.
Apple will return a visit to Tupelo to meet again with those administrators, building-level administrators and some teachers. That visit is tentatively scheduled for mid-October.
At those meetings, Apple will ask the district about its mission and its vision for technology and will then submit a narrative plan about what the district can do. It will not be a sales pitch, Shaver said.
“Nobody has made a sales pitch to us yet,” Shaver said. “That is one thing I respect about Apple.”
Clayborne said the trip opened a lot of eyes about possible uses for technology in the classroom.
“There is a strong desire to really improve the use of technology in how the learning experience works for our kids,” Clayborne said. “They use the term out there that students today are digital natives. It is no question that it is an important vehicle to help kids learn.”
Clayborne said that while at the Apple Headquarters, the team from Tupelo was exposed to how schools around the world are using Apple.
“If we intend to be one of the top school districts in America and the world, we need to be connected to what are the leading approaches around the world. I think this certainly was one step in understanding what is being done and what the possibilities are for Tupelo.”

Contact Chris Kieffer at (662)678-1590 or chris.kieffer@djournal.com.

Chris Kieffer/NEMS Daily Journal