For some time now, technology has become an unstoppable force that has changed the way we live.
We’re paying bills online now, we can order take-out through nifty phone apps, and we’re replacing books with e-readers — all in the name of convenience.
Which is why it shouldn’t come as a surprise that technological advances are now entering our classrooms as well.
Earlier this month, Iberville Parish School Superintendent Ed Cancienne announced the district was kicking off a “critical” stage of its “1+1 Initiative” with the rollout of more than 2,000 Apple Macbook Pro laptops for each of its sixth- through 12-graders.
The superintendent said the 1+1 Initiative pairs students with personal computers so they can keep up with the district’s conversion to its technology-enriched curriculum.
Cancienne added that laptops are also giving his teachers the ability to incorporate web-based programs and exercises into their daily lesson plans.
And that’s precisely what officials with the Louisiana Department of Education are pushing more school districts to do.
In July, the DOE released a report titled “Louisiana Technology Footprint,” which provides a snapshot of the current state of digital readiness in school districts across the state.
The DOE report recommends a minimum student-to-computer ratio of 7-to-1 for online testing and 5-to-1 in a minimum classroom environment.
Iberville Parish far exceeds those recommendations, reaching a 1-to-1 ratio through the parish’s 1+1 Initiative.
Iberville’s aggressive approach to technology is being mirrored throughout Louisiana, said Barry Landry, spokesman for the DOE.
Landry said schools in St. James Parish recently adopted a “one-on-one” laptop initiative aimed at providing laptops to its students.
And last year, Landry said, DeSoto Parish instituted an iPad program for its ninth-grade students. The district uses the computer tablets for textbooks, research and other educational applications, he added.
iPads are also being used to educate students in Rapides Parish and schools within the City of Monroe, Landry said.
He said the new technology is giving students access to knowledge and experiences that weren’t available even five years ago.
“Just as technology evolves every day, so too must the way instruction is delivered in the classroom,” Landry said in an email. “If our students cannot learn the way we teach, maybe we should teach the way they learn.”
But with technology comes a cost.
Iberville Parish paid $1,015 for each Macbook Pro laptop, said Jolain Landry, the school district’s chief financial officer.
Jolain Landry (no relation to Barry Landry) said previously the school district was able to fund its laptop initiative partly through a 2008 voter-approved 31-mill property tax that generates $10 million a year for school improvement. The district also receives approximately $2 million annually from a 1 percent sales tax for academic enhancement.
Other school districts aren’t in the same position. In fact, many local school officials are scratching their heads as they attempt to balance fiscal year budgets on limited revenue streams. Does this mean their students get left behind in the race to adapt?
Apple may have an app for a lot of things, but unfortunately one that can generate funds for financially-strapped school districts isn’t one of them.
At least, not yet.
Terry Jones is The Advocate’s Westside bureau chief. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.