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NCSS to use more technology

COVINGTON -- Newton County students are getting more opportunities to use technology during the school day -- and it's not because they'll be allowed to text on their cell phones during class now.

Several programs are being implemented across the Newton County School System to boost academic rigor.

"(Technology) is what ... our students are all about," NCSS Superintendent Gary Mathews said recently. "Technology is highly engaging for these students. ... We don't, however, have enough of it."

He said classroom-based improvements must be made if the system wants academic improvement.

Adam Phyall, a technical data facilitator, will provide professional development to Title I schools about integrating technology into the classroom and analyzing data from software programs to make instructional adjustments, NCSS recently reported.

"We certainly want our students engaged," said Linda Hayden, director of Curriculum, Instruction and Technology at NCSS.

The technology department provided training for more than 100 staff members on each school's technology support team before the school year started. They learned their roles about providing instructional technology support for teachers within their schools, Hayden said.

Program training included MediaCAST, an Internet video program designed for education; Webex, for online meetings and conferences; ActivExpression, the world's first Student Response System that allows classroom voting through text, numbers and symbols responses; and iTunes.

This year, Eastside High School is initiating a pilot project that allows students and teachers the opportunity to bring their own laptop computer from home into the school building to use. They will have access to various school applications, such as Microsoft Office, Adobe Photoshop Elements, Adobe Premiere Elements and several others, as well as access to the Internet and each individual's saved files, said Dr. Gary Shattuck, director of Technology at NCSS.

"With shrinking budgets, the school system decided to test this concept of allowing personal computers into a school in order to increase student access to computer resources," he said. "These computers are intended to be used for instructional purposes only."

Neither the school nor the school system will assume responsibility for the personal computers, including any hardware and software issues, as well as computers which are damaged, lost or stolen, Shattuck said.

Also this year in NCSS, a federal grant provided program funding for technology infrastructure improvements in schools based on economic needs as determined by the number of students using the free and reduced lunch program, Shattuck said.

Recently, crews provided renovations at Veterans Memorial Middle School and Livingston Elementary School.

Also this year, wireless capabilities were added to Clements and Cousins middle schools and Fairview, Ficquett, Heard Mixon, Porterdale, Rocky Plains and West Newton elementary schools. Middle Ridge also will pilot a wireless program this year.

This will give 17 schools wireless capabilities. Live Oak, Livingston and South Salem elementary schools, Liberty and Veterans Memorial middle schools and each of the three high schools already have wireless access.

Palmer Stone Elementary School and Newton High School also had the opportunity to receive federal funding for wireless programs, but because they will be phased out of state funding over the next few years, NCSS returned the money earmarked for those two schools to the federal government, Shattuck said.