- Associated Press - Sunday, November 23, 2014

COLUMBUS, Neb. (AP) - Dillon Houser uses computers almost daily for his school work.

Now he will have a laptop that will always be in hand and ready to use, whether in the classroom at Columbus High School or at home, the Columbus Telegram (https://bit.ly/14NbQUZ ) reported.

He and other students at CHS received new MacBook Air laptops this month as part of Columbus Public Schools’ move to provide all students with access to technology and make the district more digital.

More than 1,200 Apple laptops were purchased for the district, with 1,100 distributed to high school students Monday and Tuesday evenings.

“I think this will help us learn better,” Houser, a junior, said after receiving his laptop and case.

Getting better test scores and improving learning by giving all students equal access to a computer is an objective for the program.

“Schools that have utilized one-to-one are seeing positive returns. They are seeing an increase in achievement levels of kids,” CHS Principal Steve Woodside said.

One-to-one is the term that refers to schools distributing electronic devices to all students. It is a concept that is being adopted by more schools across the country. One of those schools is Westside High School in Omaha.

Rob Uchtman, who operates the one-to-one program there, was at Columbus High Monday to help kick off the local program. He said there have been a number of areas positively affected since Westside started its one-to-one program 11 years ago.

“What we have found over time is that use of computers is not necessarily during the school day. The use of the computers is outside of the school day and that keeps students engaged. The more they use it outside of school time the more ACT, SAT, GPA and graduation rates all go up,” Uchtman said.

Over the past decade, he said the number of students who receive free and reduced-prices meals at the Omaha school has risen from about 7 percent to more than 30 percent. Those students might not have been able to afford their own devices. The program helps create a level playing field between all students because everyone has the access to computers.

Another benefit is seeing an increase in computer fluency in students. Woodside said that is important, too, because digital technology is a big part of being career-ready.

The laptops, which have online filters to block certain websites, are being leased from Apple for a four-year period at a cost of $1.2 million. The deal includes a $200 price discount per machine.

Students can pay for a $40 protection plan to take the computers home. If a computer is damaged, the student is responsible for paying 15 percent of the repair bill. Students who don’t pay for the plan leave their computers at school where they are checked out and in each school day.

CHS students said they think the computers will come in handy for some classes more than others. Junior Hunter Gasper said he believes it will be useful in English and other classes that include writing projects.

Senior Nathan Sliva said he will use his laptop for his speech class instead of having to rely on one of the school’s laptops to be available.

Not all students were thrilled about getting a computer.

“I personally don’t want them. I won’t have any use for mine after Christmas. My English classes are going to be done. I don’t know how I’m going to use this in weights or pottery,” said senior Alisha Behnken.

Woodside said it will be a process to see how the computers can be used in certain classes. Teachers have been incorporating more technology into the classroom already. They were given iPads and use Google Docs, a web-based drive that allows documents to be accessed by students online.

“This is a beginning,” Woodside said. “It’s a journey in this whole digital world.”

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Information from: Columbus Telegram, https://www.columbustelegram.com


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