When school started this week, 3,200 new laptops greeted students in Broward County Public Schools and similar initiatives in Miami-Dade are bringing iPads to classrooms. NBC 6's Ari Odzer has the story.
When school started this week, 3,200 new laptops greeted students in Broward County Public Schools.
The computers are part of the district's attempt to keep pace with a state mandate to upgrade technology.
Gisele Bishop's class at Hollywood Hills Elementary is using them, and Bishop says it's revolutionary.
"I'm very excited because now they're getting to do so many things they couldn't do before," Bishop said. "And it's amazing the information they're pulling together and they're having fun, that's the important thing, they're enjoying it."
Across the hall, the kids are doing math at their own pace. They're wearing headphones, there's classical music playing softly in the background and the kids say there's no comparison to textbooks.
"Yeah, I like it way better, like computers way better, because everything is on one platform," student Jacob Larocque said.
His teachers agree.
"We're able to do those 21st century, student-centered learning that we could never really do before," Larocque's teacher Katie Lessard said.
The new laptops and tablets are part of the Broward School District's Digital 5 program.
"The world we live in is very technologically advanced," Broward Schools Superintendent Robert Runcie said. "Our students come to school with lots of different technology, we can't have them come to the door and tell them to power down."
Runcie said he fully supports technology upgrades, but says they must be accompanied with professional development to show teachers how to best use the new equipment.
He also pointed out that there's not enough money to meet the state's deadline of having half of all instruction digitally based by 2015. Runcie said he doubts that any of Florida's public school districts can afford to meet the state's benchmark by 2015. That would include Miami-Dade, which has its own ambitious program to put more tablets in classrooms.
"Your iPad is your tool to be able to improve your reading and your writing and your speaking and your listening skills," Florencia Pallacios tells her students at Hialeah Gardens High School.
The iPads are helping her ESOL students, those studying English as a second or other Language. They can touch a word on the screen and it gives them a definition and an illustration of its meaning.
"I would say a program is only as good as it is timely, and this is timely. The moment is now," Pallacios said."It has everything a teacher needs to teach reading and writing."
After all, apples have always had a place in the classroom. The issue is finding the money to buy tablets for all.
"I would imagine that would be the toughest thing, but when they look to see what the results are, it's going to be worth every penny that they spend," Bishop said.
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