For more than ten years, middle and high school students at Westside Community Schools have been given laptops to use during the school year.
Tech experts in the district say it allows students and teachers to explore learning in new, interactive ways. They also stress the need to integrate the technology in a natural way.
Dr. Paul Lindgren is the director of technology at Westside. He says, "we want the technology to fade in the background and just become part of the air and the atmosphere that we breathe at the district."
Colton Willnerd is a high school senior. He's also in the Center for Advanced Professional Studies (CAPS) program. He hopes to work in network security. He has already put together a resume and shared it online and is now working on a professional bio for a possible internship.
Willnerd has also done a lot of work outside of school thanks to the tools the district has provided him. "By this year I've done 12 or so professional projects where I've gotten paid for actually creating software for contractors or working for them." He says the laptop and software licenses provided by the district have made this work possible.
Dr. Matt Lee is the coordination of technology integration for the district. He shared an example with us of an English teacher who puts together YouTube videos to engage students. It allows students to watch the videos and learn outside of the classroom. They can also refer back to the videos.
Another class is learning about the Holocaust. They've interviewed Holocaust survivors and accessed archives out of USC. They then use a program called iBooks Author to put together interactive projects that tell a survivor's story.
The books include pictures, videos, maps as well as text. They even hope to publish some of the works.
"When you talk about students engaging outside the classroom that's a very powerful personal product they're creating," Dr. Lee said.