Students learn with laptops

WILLSBORO-A computer for every student is a reality for three English classes at Willsboro Central School.

In fourth-, fifth- and sixth-grade English classes, students are able to use a laptop computer which was funded through the E-Rate Program, which is money given by cable and telephone companies to help bring more technology into schools, according to school Superintendent Stephen Broadwell.

"It has helped them to be more excited about writing," said Tara Valachovic, who teaches the three English classes. "We have a laptop for each student that is shared among the three classes and there may only be one or two times when there are students doubling-up on a laptop."

In all, the English classroom has 15 small laptop computers that allow students to access the Web and write for class.

"It has improved their writing and presentation and they can identify problems more easily now," Valachovic said. "The main drawback is that because the state tests concentrate on handwriting skills, we have to make sure that there is a balance in the time they spend writing both ways."

Broadwell said that currently, students have to leave their seats in order to access the Internet.

"The next step is to actually go wireless in the classrooms," Broadwell said. "Then the students will be able to access the Web right from where they are sitting."

Along with wireless capabilities, the school is also looking into using E-Rate funding to expand the program into the middle school.

Broadwell and Valachovic both said that the students have been appreciative of the laptops and have taken excellent care of them.

"We had one student who dropped one of the laptops, and you could tell just how scared they were," Valachovic said. "The machine was okay, but they were concerned."

"I think that the computers are helpful because, instead of writing everything, we can type it and learn how to type faster and better," sixth-grader Alex Bliss said.

"I think they have changed our class by learning more about computers and having the ability to access the Internet," fifth-grader Paul Fine-Lease said. "I think it has helped us all."

"It makes it so much easier to work on projects," sixth-grader Connor Steeves said.

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