A $164,000 grant from the Susie Parker Stringfellow Health Fund of the Community Foundation of Northeast Alabama will enable the system to buy MacBooks, iPads and iPods for kindergartners, first-, second- and third-graders, school administrators said. The grant is enabling the system to further develop a technological initiative that has placed MacBooks in the hands of each student in grades four through 12.
“Technology allows us to provide individual instruction. It really allows us to connect with every kid and we certainly want to do that with the younger kids too,” Piedmont City School Superintendent Matt Akin said. “We are constantly looking for ways to expand.”
Administrators will buy a set of MacBooks for each of the lower-level grades. These Apple laptops can be checked out for small group or whole-class instruction, Piedmont Elementary School Principal Chris Hanson said. The technology will be managed differently than it is for students in the upper grade levels.
Each of those students is given his or her own laptop; they are allowed to take them home.
Keeping the computers in the classroom will insure they are properly taken care of, Akin said. Administrators aren’t sure, at this point, that younger children are up to the task.
Still, Hanson said, the system wants to provide opportunities for each child in the system to use the technology. That’s because educators incorporate the new technology into lesson plans. As a result, Akin said, students are more engaged in learning than they were previously.
Having the technology in the hands of young students will ensure the students are acclimated to emerging forms of technology, he said. Right now many Piedmont students have to develop computer literacy skills in the fourth grade.
“It’s really a struggle to begin with, because they’re not familiar with the MacBooks,” Akin said.
In addition to providing technology to students in the classroom, the Piedmont school system is providing Internet to students in their homes through a federal program. In recent weeks 200 houses in Piedmont went live with Internet access through the program called E-Rate.
Akin said he expects the technology to continue providing opportunities for students. In the summer he plans to implement an enrichment program that would allow the students to work from home to learn foreign languages and other subjects.
It would be “very much like an online class, but for fifth-graders, not 22-year-olds,” Akin said.
Star staff writer Laura Johnson at 256-235-3544. On Twitter: LJohnson_Star