The News Courier in Athens, Alabama

January 23, 2014

Laptop mania: Blue Springs launches Digital Passport Initiative

By Kim West
kwest@athensnews-courier.com

— Digital learning received a boost Thursday morning as school officials handed out new laptops to 140 third- and fourth-graders at Blue Springs Elementary School.

The new computers — 11-inch MacBook Air laptops for students and 13-inch versions for the teachers — is part of a six-year Digital Passport Initiative announced last year by Limestone County Schools.

“The Digital Passport Initiative is a 1-to-1 initiative where every student has a laptop available to them 24-7,” said Karen Tucker, the school system’s director of information technology and public relations. “We are pleased to provide this opportunity to the third and fourth grade students at Blue Springs Elementary as our pilot school.

“(Thursday) was a groundbreaking day in Limestone County, but it was just the completion of our first hurdle. Now that the devices are in the hands of the students, it is our task to integrate them into the curriculum using project-based learning.”

Blue Springs is serving as a pilot school since it already has Wi-Fi. Wireless cabling is being installed in all county schools as part of the district’s ongoing technology upgrades.

Tucker said the program at Blue Springs cost $300,000, with central office officials expecting an average cost of $2 million per year to sustain the digital initiative throughout the system.

Blue Springs teachers attended training workshops last July to learn new instructional methods and how to use their new laptops. The school also has a technology facilitator to assist staff and students.

The school district intends to supply the rest of the county’s third- and fourth-grade teachers and students with laptops in 2014-15.

Two additional grade levels in the remaining county schools will be phased into the program during the remaining four years of the initiative.

DPI schedule

Listed below is the Digital Passport Initiative schedule:

• 2013-14 — Blue Springs Elementary School, grades 3 and 4

• 2014-15 — grades 3 and 4 in all remaining county schools

• 2015-16 — grades 5 and 6 in all county schools

• 2016-17 — grades 9 and 10 in all county high schools

• 2017-18 — grades 11 and 12 in all county high schools