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Some EVSC students required to have laptops

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Posted by Sarah Harlan - email

EVANSVILLE, IN (WFIE) - High School students in the Evansville-Vanderburgh School Corporation will soon be going digital. That, after the board approved the use of laptops in the classroom, and Monday night, we learn how much it's going to cost students.  

In addition to the annual textbook fee, there will now be a $35 per semester ($70 a year) rental fee for the laptops, or netbooks.  Starting this school year, all high school students will be required to rent one.  

"Kids don't learn that way anymore," EVSC Chief Technology Officer Mike Russ said. "They learn digitally."

Ask any high schooler what their friends are doing right now, even who their friends are dating.

If they don't know the answer off the top of their head, they know exactly how to find out.

A simple click on Facebook, MySpace or Twitter, and all that information is at their fingertips.

Now, EVSC officials are hoping students will apply that type of research to their studies.

"What we're trying to do is say there are resources that are much more dynamic, cause the world is so dynamic, things are changing that students should be able to access that information and not rely on a document that doesn't get updated," Russ said.

The EVSC updates its textbooks every six years.

Information on the internet is updated practically every second, which is why there's a push for classrooms to go digital.

The EVSC believes the Hewlett-Packard Netbook is the answer.

Beginning this fall, all high school students will be required to rent one.

Bringing in their own laptop isn't an option.

That's because school officials said the netbooks are specifically designed to work on the school's wireless internet system.

They're also set up with special filters so students won't be able to access sites like Facebook.

The goal is for students to use the netbooks as an additional research tool in the classroom and at home.

"Some families don't have internet anymore, or they don't have it at all," concerned parent Ed Drake said. "How are those children going to be able to take care, take advantage of the opportunity to have a laptop at home?"

School officials said students without internet access at home will be able to use the netbooks at local public libraries.

The EVSC has ordered 7,200 netbooks.  Nearly 270 EVSC teachers will take part in a training seminar this Friday.

The $35 fee will be waived for students on free or reduced lunch.  Officials with the school corporation said they will work with those who can't afford the extra rental fee.

School officials said the EVSC is utilizing a state technology grant to help keep the cost of the rental fee down.

Each netbook comes with a one-year waranty.  If it's damaged, it's up to the students to pay for the repairs or to replace it.  Each comes with a carrying case that students will be able to use to help protect it.

Once a student is assigned a netbook, they will use the same one until they graduate.  School officials hope that will encourage students to take better care of them. 

Students in the Daviess County Public School System in Kentucky have been using laptops in the classroom since 2005.

Matthew Constant, the DCPS Technology Coordinator, said the system has had great success with the program.

Laptop rental there is $100 a year.

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