The district is preparing to launch a $1.2 million state-funded pilot program putting tablet computers into the hands of every student and fundamentally changing the way students access information and use technology inside and outside of the classroom.
“This is the biggest change in education to the way education is presented in the history of the school district,"said Superintendent Todd English. We are very fortunate to have gotten this pilot program.”
The project, funded by the Mississippi legislature during the most recent regular session and over seen by the state department of education, will provide every student in the district with a digital device that will contain their textbooks along with programs for word processing, Internet access for research, and specific applications tied to individual subjects or study areas.
The superintendent emphasized the program is entirely funded through the state and no local tax money will be used for the effort.
Booneville is the sole K-12 participant in the pilot project. The Hattiesburg School District was funded through the same bill to pilot the program only at the middle school level.
The pilot projects will be monitored closely by the department of education and will be used as models for the rest of the state for the implementation of this type of major technology changes in schools.
“Booneville's program will be a model for the state," said English.
He said he's extremely grateful to State Senator J.P. Wilemon, State Representative Tracy Arnold and Gov. Phil Bryant for their leadership in encouraging the creation of the pilot program and bringing it to Booneville.
The district is currently completing the installation of equipment to allow wireless Internet access in every building. The expect to seek bids soon for the purchase of the devices with the goal of having the tablet computers in the hands of the students by Christmas.
Students in kindergarten and first grade will receive a simpler device and grades 2-12 will receive a more advanced digital device, likely an Android based computer, which will have their complete textbooks and all other needed materials installed.
English said the goal of the program is to help students meet the increasingly rigorous Common Core Curriculum standards being implemented across the state which focus on technology and communication and put much greater demands on students. He said students already use this type of technology in their daily lives and it makes sense to incorporate it and encourage the development of technology skills in the school setting.
The program will also save money on the purchase of textbooks and allow those resources to be updated on a more regular basis.
English said they understand not all students have Internet access at home, so the textbooks themselves are stored in the memory of the machine and will not require an active Internet connection to use.
The equipment will be overseen by the district's technology coordinator Dustin Pounders who will have full access to maintain the machines, send out updates and ensure they are being used correctly.
The superintendent also noted all Internet access using the devices will go through the state content filter to ensure they are used for legitimate purposes and no inappropriate material is accessed.