By Chris Kieffer
TUPELO – The Tupelo Public School District will furnish laptops for all of its third- to fifth-grade students to use in the classroom next year.
It will purchase about 1,200 Chomebook computers so that each student will have access to one during the school day. The students will not take the devices home.
This will expand the district’s current computer initiative, which uses classroom sets of computers for sixth-graders and provides a MacBook for all seventh- to 12th-graders to use at school and home.
The use of the computers in the older grades will not change, Superintendent Gearl Loden said. The school district will, however, purchase a new MacBook Air computer for each of its teachers to use next year and will use the older teacher computers to supplement the student devices.
District officials announced the expansion to the younger grades during Tuesday’s School Board meeting. It will be important, they said, since students in grades three and above will be taking standardized tests on the Common Core State Standards using computers.
“It is important for our students to understand the platform on which they are being assessed,” Assistant Superintendent Kim Britton said. “In addition to knowing the curriculum, they need to know the technology skills that will be required.”
Niki Peel, the district’s new instructional technology coordinator, will work to ensure the students learn digital citizenship skills, Superintendent Gearl Loden said.
She also will work with teachers to help them to integrate the technology into the classroom.
“Student learning will have to evolve around 21st-century skills,” Peel said, noting that will include more project-based learning. “We want to use technology as more than a resource but use it to its full potential to develop these skills.”
Each third- to fifth-grade school already has about 100 Chromebooks. Now they will each add about 300 more, which will be funded by the district’s general budget.
Those students now have access to the computers about once a week, or sometimes more when they work in groups. The new initiative will make sure they are able to use them every day, Britton said.
“Elementary school is going to change completely,” Britton said.