Palm Springs Unified on right track with plans for classroom laptops

Other valley districts should follow proposal's lead

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The Desert Sun
January 31, 2007

In a global economy in which technology is so pervasive, leaders at Palm Springs Unified School District are proposing a three-year plan to bring more high-tech equipment and know-how to the classroom.
The first piece of the ambitious plan spearheaded by new Superintendent Lorri McCune is also one of the most exciting: putting personal laptops in the hands of nearly 100 students by this fall.
Palm Springs Unified would be the first district in the Coachella Valley to adopt such an initiative, and we think it's an idea whose time has come. Across the country, school districts, recognizing the need to better arm students for the digital age, are finding ways to put technology literally at the fingertips of young people. At a time when students' lives are so immersed in technology - from to text messages and MP3 players - it only makes sense to bring it to the classroom, too.
McCune and her team at Palm Springs Unified clearly understand that. The district's three-year technology plan, which was introduced Monday night, goes beyond laptops for students. It also would provide more training for teachers to use laptops to enhance the learning environment in district classrooms.
The primary initiative would equip three classrooms district wide - one each at the elementary, middle and high school levels - with personal laptops in the 2007-08 school year. It would expand each year until the 2009-2010 school year, when every school would have at least one classroom equipped with personal laptops.
Who gets the coveted laptops? District officials say the teachers and administrators who express the strongest interest and desire to train and implement the technology into their classroom have the best shot.
There's an even tougher question that needs answered: How will the district pay for the $2 million annually needed to cover hardware and infrastructure costs related to the laptop program? Even more money is needed to finance training, technicians and other technical support.
Again, McCune and Palm Springs Unified officials are trying to be creative. They've identified outside grant possibilities as a possible funding source. It's critical, they say, to not strip money from existing programs. We agree with that position.
We applaud the district's technology plan and endorse its call for outside financial assistance that will put laptops in the hands of eager learners who could play a vital role in the Coachella Valley economy not only now as part-time workers, but, hopefully, as college graduates who can join the local workforce in a few years.

Lee Grafton, the district's instructional technology specialist, said it best: "The big idea here is we're trying to create a vision for the 21st century. What skills do we want the students to have and how are we going to make sure that happens?"
Let's do all we can as a community to ensure Palm Springs Unified - and our two other school districts - are able to see that vision become a reality.