Laptop Program: Introduction at Watauga High School
Our 1:1 History
In an ever-changing world dependent on technology, in the fall of 2010, Watauga High School took a giant leap into the Global Information Age with an innovative program involving laptop computers. Pioneer IT (Pioneer Instructional Technology) offered a laptop to every student and teacher for use at both school and home. Watauga High joined a small, but growing, list of forward-thinking schools in the state and nation by making this commitment to true 21st-century education, a learner-centered environment where flexibility, connectivity, collaboration, and innovation are the key. Occupying a new, modern campus in 2010-11; Watauga High also actively promoted an innovative learning environment in which students and teachers have around-the-clock access to the computer resources of the modern global classroom through its 1:1 laptop program.
Public school officials and county commissioners in Watauga County prepared for this exciting initiative for several years, first by planning and building a new campus that can support the high-tech needs of the entire school community. For the first time, students and visitors on-campus were able to connect wirelessly to the new high school’s computer network and to the global Internet. Then, in the spring of 2010, officials approved and purchased Dell laptops for the entire student body and faculty. Students were provided a tool to access local, national, and global resources, as well as experts, for constructing and building knowledge. Watauga High School students were able to demonstrate their understanding through creative projects and products. During the last four years, students have continued to work together with peers and teachers to identify problems and explore solutions and work on those projects outside the regular school day.
WHS faculty members invested much time training and demo-ing laptops, tablet PCs, and other new technologies for the four years leading up to the 2010-11 school year. The WHS staff participated in an intensive professional development program on how to engage students in digital or computer-based learning. Since 2006, WHS has participated in several laptop and tablet PC programs involving faculty and individual classes through the corporate support of Hewitt-Packard, Toshiba, and CDW-G. WHS was one of 10 pilot programs for North Carolina Virtual Public Schools in 2007. WHS faculty members have attended training courses at The Friday Institute and received coaching support through a grant with the Golden Leaf Foundation, SAS, and The Friday Institute. Wireless mobile PC labs were introduced in 2010, with 80 percent of our teachers gaining experience with student laptop use in their classrooms. A variety of pilot programs involving emerging technologies for use in the classroom have continued, in parallel with the 1:1 laptop deployment, to evaluate new devices and classroom strategies for integrating technology. These experiences have helped prepare teachers for a learning environment that is no longer centered on a traditional model that focuses mainly on lectures and note-taking, but instead will be focused on engaging students in powerful ways.
Studies have shown that student enthusiasm toward learning increases and actual achievement improves when teachers effectively integrate technology in their classes. As evidence, similar school-wide laptop initiatives have proven successful within our state at Mooresville City Schools and in Greene County middle and high schools, as well as in public and private schools in places like Irving, Texas, Henrico County, Va., Pensacola, Fla., and the State of Maine. Educators agree that this laptop program has been a positive step toward preparing Watauga County students for success in the challenging decades to come.