WAVERLY — With the latest purchase of 525 Lenovo ThinkPad E11 laptops for high school students at the Waverly Central School District, technology director Kyle Ackland saw the completion of an initiative that was three years in the making.
The district now boasts a one-to-one student and technology ratio — meaning that every student in the district from kindergarten through 12th grade has their own technology device for the classroom.
“Every student has access to their own device throughout the school day,” he said. “For kids under second grade, those students have iPads, and students in grades two through 12 have laptops.”
Ackland explained that the increased focus in technology began a few years ago when teachers pitched the idea to administrators.
From there, devices were purchased for the district’s fourth-grade class in the range of $200 to $300 per device.
“That went very well,” Ackland said. “We received a lot of positive feedback, and it grew from there. What we have today is the culmination of those original efforts.”
While the initiative began with HP devices, the district started looking to upgrade to the Lenovo computers to allow the district to do more. And as the district replaces the devices through its three-year replacement cycle, it will soon move to all Lenovo laptops.
Ackland noted that the district introduced the technology incrementally for that purpose — to begin the cycle of replacing devices gradually and regularly in order to better budget for the technology.
“Sure, it would look good in a sense if the district spent like $500,000 for all these devices at once, but we were planning for the long-term replacement,” he said. “This process allows us to do that.”
Ackland also credited administrators for being on board with the process and having more technology enter the classroom.
“(Superintendent Eric) Knolles has been a big proponent of technology, and the hardware budget for technology was increased by $75,000 after this idea was pitched to him,” Ackland said. “Getting the funds, training for the teachers — it’s all been an easy process with administrators, and we’ve gotten lots of support from them.”
However, even with the technology, Ackland said teachers will still remain as having the biggest impact on student learning.
“It always has and always will come down to the teachers and how it’s all implemented,” he stated. “That’s why the training is so important. Technology is a tool like everything else that a teacher uses in the classroom. And our teachers make good use of it.”
While only high school students have the option to bring their devices home with them — students up to eighth grade have to leave their computers at school — Ackland wanted to reassure parents that the devices are protected.
“All of the devices are filtered for safe use at home as well as in the classroom,” he said. “There are safe programs installed in all of them to protect students.”