Elementary students get new digital devices

Barbara Hootman

As promised in August 2015, the school system put the latest Windows touchscreen devices with keyboards in the hands of fourth-, fifth- and sixth-grade students at the beginning of January.

Some 5,600 of the devices, which can be used as laptops or tablets, have been distributed to 28 Buncombe County schools. The devices are part of the school system’s ongoing plan to transition to a digital learning environment. Next school year, students in grades 7, 8 and 9 will receive similar devices. In 2017-18, students in grades 10, 11 and 12 will get the latest digital technology. The school system is paying $385 plus tax for each device.

“We are excited about our students getting digital devices,” Kimberly Ward, principal at W.D. Williams Elementary School, said in an e-mail. “Our goal is to prepare our students for a technology-driven world in which innovation, creativity and problem-solving are collaboratively intertwined with the traditional curriculum to increase their knowledge base.

“(With) digital devices in the hands of our students, we will continue to offer exciting opportunities for learning in the classrooms. We feel the concept of one-on-one learning is particularly powerful, as students are able to find information immediately as they need or request it.”

School system superintendent Tony Baldwin looks at the new devices and the money it cost the system as an investment.

“The planning, infrastructure development and upgrades, training and funding for these digital devices have certainly been a long time in the works,” he said, “but we know this investment is paving the way for higher levels of engagement in our classrooms. For the initial implementation of the devices, the Lenovo ThinkPad Yoga 11e was chosen because it met staff and student preferences, experiences, pilot feedback, career and college readiness, and a commitment to accelerate without limiting personalized learning opportunities.”

Norman Bossert, principal at Black Mountain Elementary School, said technology and its role in the learning and lives of children will forever alter what schools, teaching and assessment look like.

“Students will write and read on their computers,” he said via e-mail. “They will conduct research and apply classroom learning to new ways of gathering, collating and communicating all that they learn. Teachers will be able to tailor learning to the specific needs of the child. We are just at the beginning of a daring new technological world. Frankly, we (can) scarcely even imagine all the possibilities that will blossom in the light of this new technology.

“It sort of reminds me of the play ‘Inherit the Wind,’” he said. “Spencer Tracy’s character (Henry Drummond) notes that the sky will fill with magnificent flying machines, but the air will smell of kerosene. The truth is we have no idea where this infusion of technology will lead public education. There will be a ton of good stuff.”