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Laptop Program Provides New Way of Learning for St. Joe Students

Eighth graders in Stacia Studer's class at Bode Middle School all sit in front of their Apple Macbooks. The laptops they're using come from the St. Joseph School District's pilot program Project: Connect.
ST. JOSEPH, Mo. -- Eight graders in Stacia Studer's class at Bode Middle School all sit in front of their Apple Macbooks.

They're using the website Diigo as part of their reading and writing workshop.

"Diigo is an educational tool that allows students to read a passage and make comments on it to show their critical thinking skills on what they're reading," Studer said.

The laptops they're using come from the St. Joseph School District's pilot program Project: Connect.

The one-to-one laptop program officially began last Tuesday, but teachers have been preparing for it for a while.

Now that it's implemented in her classroom, Studer says it's changed the way she teaches, grades, and interacts with her students.

"I am gaining so much more from my students because I don't have to take a whole bunch of notebooks home, I can just take my laptop home.  I can comment to students and they can comment immediately right back to me," she said.

Bode's assistant principal Kevin Whaley has been part of a one-to-one school before: Staley High School in North Kansas City.

Bode is the only middle school in St. Joseph to go one-to-one. Benton High School joins them as the two participants in Project: Connect.

Whaley says middle schoolers are a little different than high schoolers with this new technology.

"There's more of an excitement about it," he said.  "They're more willing to try new things.  They're also more willing to collaborate with one another and show each other what they're doing."

And Studer says they come to eighth grade already knowing how to handle themselves with these devices.

"It's not been a big deal to them at all.  They're used to this.  It's their world.  I am a digital immigrant, they are digital natives," she said.

Still, there was a long process of educating each student what's expected with their Macbooks.

Mr. Whaley says the rollout went very smoothly.

"Students weren't just given the device.  They have a strong foundation about what's expected of them, how to use it, how not to use it, and so far it's gone very well," the assistant principal said.

And according to administrators, going one-to-one does more than just teach personal responsibility.

"We know our students are really good at personal technology use - cell phones and things like that - but this is [geared toward] a professional application and an educational application," Whaley said.

They're being prepared for college.

They're being prepared for the workforce.

And in some ways, they're being prepared for jobs that don't even exist yet.
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