Mehlville integrates technology into classroom with new pilot program

Two classes of high school freshmen are taking part in a historical project within the Mehlville School District this spring.

These Mehlville High and Oakville High communication arts students are participants in the district’s One-to-One Open Source Pilot Program, which launched last week. Each of the 54 students will use a notebook computer instead of a textbook for in-class lessons and assignments, in addition to homework and projects outside of the regular school day. The success of the pilot program will determine the expansion of the program to additional high school classes for the 2012-2013 school year.

“By increasing our students’ access to open source curriculum and 21st-century tools, we are empowering students to learn at their full potential while preparing for college and the workforce,” Superintendent Eric Knost stated in a district news release. “Technology encourages students to solve problems and think critically by stimulating analytical thinking. We believe this program will enhance student learning by helping students to become more active and engaged in their learning.”

The students taking part in this semester’s pilot program each have been issued Lenovo X120 ThinkPad laptops and protective cases to use in their communications arts classes and at home. These students and their parents attended an information session prior to the start of the program, where they learned about the computers and the details of the pilot program. All students and parents also signed an agreement form outlining proper care and usage of the notebook computers.

Each Lenovo ThinkPad, which was purchased with funds from the district’s existing technology budget, will provide students with access to Moodle, this district’s online education system. Students also will use their computers to download the electronic formats of textbooks, along with open source documents and even e-books from their school’s library.

“The learning opportunities these computers can provide are seemingly endless,” Information Technology Director Steven Lee stated in the release. “Eventually, students may be able to trade in all of their textbooks for this single device.”

A technology staff member will be available at each high school to provide technical support for the computers, and the district is working to establish an online source for students and parents to access technology resources and frequently asked questions.

“We understand there will be a learning curve associated with this program, but we hope its success will lead to an expansion of the program to all high school students in the future,” Knost stated. “It will be a gradual process, but we are confident this concept will help our students become even better 21st-century learners.”