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A digital device in the hands of every pupil?

Students at Neil Armstrong Middle School could take part in a pilot learning program next year that calls for a portable device in the hands of every pupil.

Forest Grove School District technology director Brian Hawkins presented the school board Monday night with the basics of “Plugged In,” a plan that moves students from the old school chalkboard to high tech devices that allow access to lessons “anytime, anywhere,” Hawkins said.

The district stopped investing in technology two years ago — when Forest Grove was faced with $7.5 million in budget reductions. As a result, Hawkins said, all of the computers in the school are at least four to six years old.

Hawkins and superintendent Yvonne Curtis told the board that school districts across the country are moving toward digital learning.

“The model we currently have cannot support what we need to provide our students,” Hawkins said.

Although lean on specifics, the plan does call for increasing bandwidth across the district “that should be more than sufficient for five years,” Hawkins said, and upgrading wireless connection capability. Whether the district would buy or lease devices and the type of digital devices has not yet been decided.

District business manager Mike Schofield said the district is looking at investment of between $250,000 and $300,000.

“We wanted you to have an understanding of the vision, this idea of transforming learning,” Curtis told the board. “What we know now will change by the fall,” Curtis said, explaining that there will be continual change in the leap to digital learning.

NAMS Principal Brandon Hundley said his staff is on board with the plan and that some teachers have already begun integrating the use of technology into their classrooms, including using 120 iPads the school already has available and “flipped classrooms.” (See box, this page).

The plan calls for training teachers, students and parents in the use of digital learning tools, Hundley said. “The parent component is huge for us.”

Board member Alisa Hampton expressed concern about making the public aware of the proposal and associated costs.

“What is the plan to answer the questions of the public?” Hampton asked. Curtis assured Hampton that by the time all the pieces of the project come together, a communication plan will be in place.

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