March 27, 2014

Fort Worth students get computers in pilot program

More than 70 high schoolers were loaned the computers, financed by a bond package.

In a rush of excitement, North Side High School junior Xavier Thompson jumped out of his chair to high-five Elsa Tovar, a senior at Trimble Tech, who sat across the table.

The two 17-year-olds and more than 70 other high school students received their own laptops as part of the Fort Worth school district’s 2013 Commitment to Classrooms Bond Campaign. The students, members of the Student Education Advisory Council, were among the first group of students to receive the rugged black computers as part of a pilot program.

“You are all so blunt and so honest that I’m sure we will all get your feedback on these laptops,” Superintendent Walter Dansby told the students.

“There’s nothing like fresh technology in your hand,” said Jennifer LaBoon, manager of library and media services.

The laptops were distributed at 1 p.m. Wednesday at the district’s Professional Development Center.

The youngsters said they will use the laptops to complete homework and do research on the Internet.

Next year, as laptops become available to more students, the district is expected to charge $25 rent for use. Details of the laptop rental program are still under discussion, district officials said.

Kyle Davie, the district’s head of technology, explained to the students that they will need to return the computers at the end of the year. District leaders hope the students will use the computers for their studies and provide feedback on a discussion board.

Students’ digital footprints are recorded on the machines, school officials said. So LaBoon urged students to be responsible while using the new technology.

“Obviously, Mr. Dansby and our school district trust you all because they are letting you lead the way with this project,” LaBoon said.

She quoted Benjamin Franklin: “It takes many good deeds to build a reputation but only one bad one to lose it.”

LaBoon also cautioned students to use discretion posting on social media. Many colleges search students’ accounts on Facebook, Twitter and similar services, she said.

“There are people that have lost college scholarships because of their behavior online,” LaBoon said. “It’s that serious.”

One school board member attended the event.

“It’s so awesome to walk in here and you’re tweeting, of course,” Trustee Cinto Ramos told the students.

Teachers will be trained to incorporate electronic tools into the curriculum over the next year.

The laptops were paid for by the district’s $490 million bond package, which voters approved last year.

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