Catoosa's investment in hi-tech paying dividends
BY RHETT MORGAN World Staff Writer
Friday, May 11, 2012
5/11/12 at 5:33 AM
CATOOSA - Getting plugged in to the digital age has been a priority for Catoosa Public Schools.
"These kids by the time they were 2 or 3 knew more about computers than I will in my lifetime," Wells Middle School Principal Della Parrish said. "So for them it's just a natural extension of their regular lives. They learn this way. This is what to do."
The district tapped into that culture two years ago, putting MacBook computers into the hands of students in grades 6 through 8 as part of Catoosa's One to One Learning Initiative.
Ninth-graders used the computers this year, and by the fall semester, the notebooks will be incorporated into the entire high school, Parrish said.
"We've had kids who in the past we've had a hard time getting to school," she said. "Now they're excited about going to school. They feel empowered to take those basics in different directions that fit their personalities and skill set."
Apple, the computer giant that manufactures MacBooks, iPads and iPhones, took notice Thursday, making Catoosa the first Oklahoma school district to play host to an Apple "Innovation in Learning" seminar.
Representatives from seven public school districts and two state universities attended the event, including reps from Checotah, Justus-Tiawah, Jay, Grove School in Shawnee, Kansas (Okla.), Tulsa Public Schools, Liberty, OSU, OU and Tulsa Technology Center.
"It's exciting to see kids excited about learning and engaged in the process," Catoosa Superintendent Rick Kibbe said.
"Our staff could have turned and run. But they engaged and just wrapped their arms around it and took off with the kids," he said. "This would not be possible without a vision of the community. Our community, through bond issues, commitments, support of the school and partnerships, is making this happen."
Grants and voter-approved school bonds have paid for the notebooks.
The first computers were bought with a portion of $716,000 in Title II federal education grant monies awarded to the state and then dedicated by the state toward funding one-to-one technology programs.
In 2008 and 2010, district voters approved bond proposals totaling $20 million to upgrade the technology infrastructure districtwide and to provide for ongoing purchases and replacement of laptops for students and teachers, Kibbe said.
On Thursday, seventh-grade geography students were using their MacBooks to create Civil War battle scenes in preparation for the school's "Civil War Day" on Wednesday.
"I think they help us a lot," seventh-grader Dillon Phillips said of the computers.
Sixth grade is the only class that isn't allowed to take home the computers. By next year, more than 1,000 MacBooks will be in use by students and staffers, Parrish said.
"The technology is a huge investment," she said. "But it's only a tool for education. Unless you train your teachers, unless you train your staff ... it doesn't mean much. We have been able to get the staff development that we need. It's just phenomenal."
Said Jason Johnson, Catoosa's director of technology: "It's a tool that affords them almost unlimited resources. They can basically go anywhere in the world without leaving the classroom or their house. Also, from my perspective, it levels the playing field between our high-income families and our low-income families."
Original Print Headline: Catoosa's investment in hi-tech is paying dividends
Rhett Morgan 918-581-8395
Dillon Phillips and Aaron Main, seventh-graders at Wells Middle School in Catoosa, work on a Civil War lesson Thursday on a MacBook laptop computer. The school district hosted a seminar to discuss the success of its One to One learning initiative, which incorporates the computers into its curriculum. RHETT MORGAN/Tulsa World