The Internet and the classroom: local educator finds tools for learning

By Julie Fann
star staff
jfann@starhq.com

  
While debate continues concerning the benefits of classroom Internet use when minimal legislation exists to protect children not only from the damaging effects of pornography, but also bogus information, one Carter County educator recently attended a conference that accentuated the positive.
   Peggy Campbell, director of K-5 education for the Carter County School System, attended the second annual Tennessee Educational Leadership Conference in Nashville in October. Sponsored by the state Department of Education, the conference offered a variety of seminars for educators under the theme, "Passport to Improvement".
   The most beneficial information available for educators at the conference, according to Campbell, was offered during a workshop titled "Free Internet Resources to Help your Students Practice TCAP Skills".
   "I was thrilled because it had so many sites that you could access to help students with test taking. This one stood out in my mind as being the best information to give to my teachers to help them provide better assistance to their students," Campbell said.
   The 2003-04 academic year is the first in which all four Carter County high schools are equipped with enough technology to allow students regular, ongoing access to the information highway. While teachers have access to computers in the county's elementary and middle schools, students in those schools have minimal access.
   Last year, with help from the Niswonger Foundation, a private sector funding initiative to help rural school systems, Cloudland and Happy Valley High Schools each received 30 portable, laptop computers. In this year's final phase, Unaka and Hampton High Schools received laptops. The total amount of funding provided by the Niswonger Foundation was $346,000.
   Each county high school is equipped with Dell PowerEdge file servers, Plato licenses, Microsoft Office 2000 software and stipends for lab directors. The Plato licenses allow students and teachers to use educational software geared toward supplementing the regular curriculum.
   While Carter County schools are just now participating in the world of technology in education to some mentionable degree, there is an education movement in the U.S. that is integrating laptop computers into middle schools and high schools to the extent that they are used for everything.
   According to, appropriately, a recent article published in Time magazine's online edition, Brooklyn's Packer Collegiate Institute, a college preparatory high school, has been turned into a wireless Internet-access zone. Students at the school are in constant high-bandwidth contact with the school, with one another and with the Internet at large.
   In other words, all assignments, handouts, and work sheets are distributed electronically. Students take notes on laptops, take their laptops home, and turn in assignments simply by dragging it into the appropriate folder, according to the article.