EDITORIAL: Present and future

Tuesday’s announcement that the Tupelo Public Schools, working with Apple Inc., will provide laptop computers for many of the system’s 7,000-plus students – beginning first with Class of 2010 seniors, then students in the sixth through 12th grades – represents remarkable progress toward making the district fully competitive in 21st-century teaching methods and learning potential.
Tupelo’s commitment with Apple – manufacturers of Mac laptop and desktop computers, iPod and iTunes, and the watershed iPhone – will lead to retiring paper textbooks as a primary teaching resource.
The Tupelo commitment is the first one-to-one computer program adopted in such large scale by a public school district in Mississippi. It also includes dramatically enhanced computer use in the lower elementary grades and in kindergarten.
Most of the system’s students, taken to the BancorpSouth Arena for the announcement ceremony, cheered what was described as a “defining moment” that joined the present and future.
Tupelo High seniors will receive computers second semester. All sixth-through-12th graders will receive them at the start of the 2010-2011 academic year.
Tupelo’s new commitment represents exceptional progress in using teaching technology. In 1989, Gov. Ray Mabus announced the first statewide goal of placing computers in every elementary school.
Superintendent Randy Shaver, who has preached the gospel of 21st century teaching technology since assuming the district’s top job in July, on arrival began working toward the goal announced Tuesday.
We believe, in addition to training teachers in new methods, and equipping the students, the district must clearly define specific academic expectations that can be reached with immersion in computer methods.
School Board President Mike Clayborne said mastery of the new teaching method is a requirement of every teacher. Apple will send instructors and the district will reallocate resources for professional development, Clayborne said.
In addition, community institutions (especially businesses and churches) must step up with an offer of wireless-equipped facilities to allow students without residential Internet access a full opportunity to use the computers after school hours.
As CDF President David Rumbarger told students, having the computers is good news, but realizing their potential requires skilled hands to access a literal world of knowledge.
In the most practical and long-range terms, mastering learning and teaching by computer technology means the future work force rising through the public schools can bring the new economy here rather than going elsewhere to profit from it.

NEMS Daily Journal