HATTIESBURG, MS — N. R. Burger Middle School is moving into the technology fast lane this year as part of a pilot program that provides students and teachers with laptop computers in the classroom and high-speed Internet connections to support digital e-learning.
The Hattiesburg Public School District is one of two districts that are part of a $1.2 million pilot project to test the effectiveness of education technology through legislation championed by state Senators Terry Burton and Gray Tollison and state House of Representatives member John Moore.
Under the bill, the Hattiesburg and Booneville districts received funding to purchase and lease computer equipment for nearly 2,000 K-12 students and 130 teachers along with new, state-of-the-art dedicated Wi-Fi infrastructure from C Spire for selected schools in both districts.
Accessing the Latest Digital Learning Opportunities
Now the two school districts are among a handful in the U.S. that have equipped students and teachers with the latest computing technology and high-speed Internet connections so they can take full advantage of the latest digital learning opportunities and efficiencies.
“Preparing Mississippi students with the digital literacy skills they need to get good jobs and effectively compete in the 21st century global information economy needs to be one of our top priorities as parents, educators and public officials,” said Mississippi Lt. Gov. Tate Reeves, a supporter of the legislation. “This program will support digital learning, expand computer use and boost Internet speeds.”
Dr. Robert Williams, principal at N.R. Burger Middle School, said the district chose the school because 7th and 8th grade students are at a critical juncture in the educational learning process. “We want to keep students active, engaged and interested in their education as much as possible during this time and technology helps those efforts,” he said.
Consistent Student Academic Progress
Williams said results and research from other schools where technology is used show that discipline issues drop and attendance improves, which results in more consistent student academic progress. “We’re very excited about some of the early results that show increased student engagement,” he said.
The district has declared 2014 the “Year of Digital Interactive Earning” at Burger to emphasize the importance and significance of the initiative, Williams added. “With technology, students have an infinite number of resources at their fingertips – we’re not limited just to textbooks any longer.”
Initially, students will keep their laptops during the school day and turn them in before leaving for home. Once they become accustomed to using the computers, students will be allowed to take them home. The devices feature a full-size keyboard, a larger screen, extended battery life and are sturdy enough to withstand continual use.
District officials said students and teachers have responded enthusiastically to the introduction of the new technology. “When students are excited and motivated about learning and expanding their knowledge base, teachers get excited,” said Hattiesburg Public School District Superintendent James Bacchus. “It’s been particularly gratifying to see the response from some of our younger students. Words cannot describe how this dynamic has enhanced our schools.”
Robust Network Infrastructure Needed to Support Education Technology Master Plan
While Hattiesburg’s education technology master plan needed advanced computing devices to jump start its efforts, district officials also recognized the importance of a robust network infrastructure. “Network infrastructure is critical because you need a fast, scalable superhighway to travel on when you’re using the Internet and that’s exactly what we have with the hosted Wi-Fi solution from C Spire,” said Dane Conrad, the district’s technology director. “Wi-Fi gives us an anytime, anywhere educational solution for both now and in the future.”
C Spire’s hosted Wi-Fi solution, which was installed earlier this year and activated this fall at the middle school, features 81 devices, 78 access points and three switches, providing super-fast and secure wireless internet coverage in every corner of the middle school campus.
The solution also provides simultaneous wireless connections for every student and teacher in every classroom at the school – allowing for immediate access to essential web-based resources and digital learning tools like digital textbooks, library e-databases, reverse learning podcasts, electronic submission of assignments, real-time lectures and mobile applications.