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Dell films laptops at LaRue school as technological example

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Video likely to be complete in six weeks

By Amber Coulter

LaRue County High School embraced technology in October when the school provided a Dell laptop for every student.

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Soon, the school will be an online example to schools considering making such a change.

Dell flew a film crew from Seattle and support staff from Dallas to the school to film students and teachers Friday using the school’s new one-to-one laptop initiative and conduct interviews about the program.

The video will be displayed on a part of Dell’s website dedicated to technology solutions for kindergarten through 12th grade, www.dell.com/casestudies.

It might appear in about six weeks, after production is complete and the school signs off on the final version.

Kay Kerr, kindergarten to 12th grade marketing manager for Dell, said company sales representatives will use the video and others like it to show educators the results of making such a change.

The videos also can help give confidence to schools considering making similar transitions, Kerr said.

“Schools want to hear from other schools,” she said. “They don’t want to hear from Dell.”

Superintendent Sam Sanders said giving all students laptops has worked out well in inspiring student engagement.

“I think we’re all convinced at this point that it was the right thing to do,” he said. “For 14- to 18-year-olds, technology has been a large part of their lives since they were born, and digital natives don’t know any other way.”

Jorge Venegas, a Spanish teacher interviewed by Dell, said the laptops allow him to record the pronunciation of Spanish words and require students to record themselves speaking the language for homework.

He also assigns cultural projects that require students to find information and pictures of Spanish-speaking countries on the Internet and present their findings to classmates using a smart board.

Natalie Gentry, an English teacher interviewed by Dell, said the laptops helps students take ownership of the work they do.

“They think, ‘This is mine. I created this,’” she said. “It broadens the experience of the classroom.”

Kerr said Dell tries to gather stories from schools of various sizes and locations with different programs to share with other schools that might not be able to visit.

“We’re just really excited about the work that LaRue County High School is doing and that they’re being innovative, and we’re glad to see that success,” she said.

Principal Paul Mullins said Dell choosing to film at the school shows that the district is using the technology the way it should be.

“I think it shows confidence from their leadership that what we’re doing, where we’re going, is the right way,” he said.

Freddie Newby, chief information officer for LaRue County Public Schools, said the district is the fourth in Kentucky to give each student a laptop, and Dell’s interest is evidence that the change is positive.

“I think it reflects that we’re willing to take initiative and embrace technology before some districts are willing to,” he said.

Newby said school and district officials knew all students would have technological devices such as laptops in school at some point.

“We definitely wanted to go ahead and be on the cutting edge now, rather than later, he said.”

Officials did a lot of research during a two-year period before instituting the laptop program, including visiting other schools at which all students had laptops, Newby said.

They also trained staff members and parents to make sure they knew what to expect. Sanders said that in a survey to staff members before ordering laptops, no one answered that they were against the program.

There have been some challenges, such as going almost paperless in classrooms to avoid the trouble of printing from the laptops and having to block Skype that students immediately downloaded. Newby said things have mostly gone smoothly and students have embraced the laptops.

“The kids were more than ready by the time we handed them out,” he said.

Amber Coulter can be reached at (270) 505-1746 or acoulter@thenewsenterprise.com.