Unit 5 looking at other options for netbook program [The Pantagraph, Bloomington, Ill.]
(Pantagraph (Bloomington, IL) Via Acquire Media NewsEdge) Jan. 26--NORMAL -- In a case of if they'd known then what they know now, McLean County Unit 5 likely would have chosen a different device when it rolled out its sixth grade netbook program this fall.
Unit 5 district distributed Asus netbooks, which are small laptops, to about 1,100 sixth graders from its four junior high schools at the start of the school year. It soon became clear the devices had a defect that doesn't make them durable enough for sixth graders who use for much of the school day and also take them home.
When the device is opened in a certain way, the start button malfunctions. The district is working with the manufacturer for a solution and is considering other options for the purchase of its next round of devices for fall 2013, said Superintendent Gary Niehaus.
The netbooks are part of the district's "digital conversion" program, aimed at getting more technology in the hands of students. Next year, sixth and seventh graders, and possibly eighth graders, if the budget allows, will be given netbooks to use during the school year, Niehaus said.
In addition to using the devices in class, students can email teachers about homework assignments from home, work at their own pace and do more team projects.
The netbooks, costing about $400 each, are leased by the district. The price for such devices continues to go down, so the decision will be made in July about what Unit 5's financial resources can afford, he said.
Among the options are choosing a more durable model of Asus, or working with another company.
The district is doing a trial of another device, director of technology Marty Hickman, told school board members last week.
"We acknowledge it was probably not the best device for what we were using it for," said Niehaus, adding the current models could be used elsewhere in the district for the remainder of the lease agreement. They have been tested for on-cart use by high school students and that went well, he said.
"The goal is to make the device not the focus of what we are doing here as it has been early on," Hickman said.
"We learned our lesson and need to move on," said board member Mark Pritchett.
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