Students at Mt. Pleasant High School received special back-to-school presents this week — new computers.
The distribution of the devices to the school’s more than 400 students marked the first full-scale launch of the school district’s effort to put a laptop in the hands of each student in the district.
Named DIPLOMA, or the Digital Integration Plan for Learning on Mobile and Accessibility by the district’s own students, teachers and their pupils are given a Lenovo Yoga 11E. It’s a dual-purpose device that can serve as a laptop and a tablet in a program funded entity by the district itself.
Students will take the devices home with them to complete assignments, read books and work on projects, with no internet connection required.
If they do need the internet to complete assignments, businesses within the city have agreed opened their doors, allowing students to work without being disturbed.
“We are making history,” Mt. Pleasant Principal Ryan B. Jackson said, standing in the classroom filled with hundreds of laptops. “We are evening the playing field for our students. It is a big deal for Mt. Pleasant and it is a game-changer for Maury County.”
Jackson said the program serves as a symbolic token, establishing trust between the school and its community.
Students and teachers will use the devices in cooperation with district’s ongoing shift to project and problem-based learning, moving into an environment intended to reflect the work environments of cutting-edge companies like Google and Facebook.
“Its just something new and something different,” 15-year-old sophomore Adriana Marlin said. “I think it is going to be different. Everything will all be on one machine.”
Her 17-year-old sister, Destini, said swas excited to have a more the technological education.
John Carver, Maury County Public Schools’ chief digital learning officer was helping the more than a dozen volunteers distribute laptops to students.
“We are stepping through the looking glass,” Carver said. “This is the beginning.”
He said the school district has determined that 2,500 students are ready to make the move to digital, following the Technology Integration Matrix, a standardized framework for describing and targeting the use of technology to enhance learning.
Carver has led the redesign of teaching and learning in two different school districts in Iowa and calls DIPLOMA the first step the transformation to a digital learning environment for Maury County Public Schools.
“This is a huge paradigm shift and we will take the lessons we learn here in Mt. Pleasant and cross-pollinate it throughout the district,” Carver said.
Hampshire Unit School is planned to be the second school to receive the devices.
The efforts of the DIPLOMA program are to provide students with a jump-start into the world of technology and fuel the emergence of a technologically inclined workforce here in Maury County.
“We are going to be able to point to Mt. Pleasant and Hampshire and say there is a tech ready workforce leaving Maury County Schools right now,” Carver said. “With those tech skills, our students are going to be very sought after as far as workers go.”