- Associated Press - Saturday, May 17, 2014

MARYVILLE, Tenn. (AP) - Every student in Maryville City Schools will be outfitted for the digital age within three years under a plan announced by district officials.

Maryville Director of Schools Mike Winstead told The Daily Times (http://bit.ly/T7nNiC) that each student in the district will receive either a tablet or a laptop in the initiative that he called a “game changer” for the district.

“It’s the biggest thing we’ve done,” he said.

Winstead said students in grades kindergarten through third would receive iPads, and older students would get laptops.

The district aims to have some of the devices operating in classrooms next year, but a full rollout won’t come until the 2015-16 school year.

Foothills elementary school Principal Amy Vagnier says the devices will help teachers provide a more personalized curriculum and promote “limitless learning.”

“It’s the most exciting learning initiative we’ve ever embarked upon,” Vagnier said. “We’re going to see things in Maryville that we’ve never seen before now.”

Over the past year, administrators have researched devices and visited schools to learn about digital conversion models. Over the last few month, they have finalized planning, prepared school infrastructure and purchased Blackboard Learn, a learning management system.

“We’ve been on this path for a while,” Winstead said. “Digital conversion has been on our strategic plan for the past four years. Now, it’s got a name: iReach.”

The conversion will allow the district to create an “equal playing field” among students, he said. Data shows that up to 20 percent don’t have home computers.

“By providing equitable access to every child, we hope to erase the digital divide and elevate the learning potential of every child,” according to the iReach executive summary.

In addition, Vagnier said Blackboard Learn will extend learning beyond the classroom.

“Students can learn at their own pace with its curriculum component, which is available 24/7,” she said. “Students will have more possibilities than the traditional (education) model. We’re relying on each teacher’s creativity, innovation and professionalism to maximize student learning. It will allow us to free up human resources to do what only they can do.”

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Information from: The Daily Times, http://www.thedailytimes.com