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Virginia District Ramps Up Districtwide High School 1-to-1 Laptop Program

Roanoke County Public Schools in Virginia has completed the implementation of a district-wide 1-to-1 laptop initiative for 6,000 high school students across five schools, as well 1,600 instructional staff members.

The district's 1-to-1 laptop initiative has been in development since 2002, when Hidden Valley High School first provided incoming freshmen with laptops as part of a pilot program. Since those early days, the district has expanded the program while implementing the necessary IT infrastructure and support services.

The district now provides all incoming freshmen students with their own new Dell Latitude laptop running Windows 7 and pre-loaded with Microsoft Office 2010; curriculum software for math, science, and other subjects; and other tools such as Blackboard Learn and Blackboard Collaborate. Students use their laptops to access more than 90 percent of their textbooks, as well as other digital learning content, inside and outside the classroom. To support technology initiatives across the entire district, RCPS employs 17 IT professionals, 14 instructional technology resource teachers, and an instructional resources manager.

"We are committed to empowering our students through technology and the 21st century skills of collaboration, communication, creativity, and critical thinking," said Dr. Lorraine Lange, superintendent of RCPS, in a prepared statement.

Technology has enabled the district to implement variety of innovative programs. Students at the district's Center for Engineering work together to program Lego robotics. A program at the Governor's STEM Academy at the Burton Center for Arts and Technology enables students to design computer games and online virtual environments. Meanwhile, teachers in the district are using their laptops to to analyze students' online test scores and use the information to individualize instruction for students who are at risk of falling behind.

According to Lange, the initiative has helped level the playing field for the district's economically disadvantaged students. “The key factor in how the laptop initiative has helped close the socioeconomic gap is that all this comes at little cost to the student,” she said in a prepared statement. “Students pay only a nominal insurance fee, and even that is significantly reduced for students with demonstrated need.”

In recognition of the district's successful technology integration, it won first place in the large district category (12,000 students or more) in the Center for Digital Education and the National School Boards Association's 2013 Digital School Districts Awards.

Roanoke County Public Schools serves more than 14,000 students across 27 schools in Roanoke, VA.

About the Author

Leila Meyer is a technology writer based in British Columbia. She can be reached at leilameyer@gmail.com.

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