The students at Fillmore Central High School, grades nine through 12, will each be using a MacBook Air laptop during the 2013-2014 school year. The students in seventh and eighth grade will be added into the one-to-one laptop program the following school year.

"We haven't worked out all the policies yet," Superintendent Richard Keith told the school board during its board meeting on Nov. 27. "We will be working with the staff on how to implement them into the classroom instruction and how best to use them as tools for learning."

Keith had distributed a report from the technology committee prior to the meeting, which not only updated the board on the progress the district is making in improving the technology accessibility for its students, but also outlined the future needs and goals of the committee.

The goal to provide each high school student with a laptop is definitely being recognized, step by step. It was noted in the report that there are currently two carts with a total of 50 MacBook Airs available for student use in the high school.

Next year, as each ninth through 12th grader has the dedicated use of one, these will be made available to the seventh and eighth graders until the next year when they, too, will have their own to use.

Keith explained that the committee had talked to many local districts about choosing the best laptop to offer its students, looking at both the Mac and Windows-based systems. He explained Kingsland is one of the few districts in the area using Macintoshes, but in Iowa, the trend is the opposite with three to one districts using Macs.

Following the meeting, Keith said the initial costs of a Mac-based system may be greater but maintenance costs are less. He also noted that Macs do not need the extensive virus protection software that is needed for Windows-based laptops.

To best implement the use of these computers in the classroom, Keith and Principal Heath Olstad told the board that the teachers are currently being trained and educated in that area. A group of teachers will be going to a conference in Cedar Falls and another set will be attending a conference in the Twin Cities.

Olstad added that these teachers will be representing a variety of disciplines, including English, math, social studies and science.

Board member Craig Britton asked Keith and Olstad if the district is staffed appropriately to accommodate the advances in technology - both for student and teacher support as well as for maintenance for the hardware being added to the inventories.

Keith noted the district had hired an additional person to help in the area, but technology support personnel Jeff Thompson had expressed the same concern. He also explained most of the higher end service will be outsourced, but the situation will be monitored as the technology gets implemented into the classrooms. "More help may be needed, but we will have to wait and see," he added.

Elementary iPads

Before the high school students see their MacBook Airs, the elementary students will be receiving iPads to use in their classrooms, soon, now that a server has been installed in the building.

"At this time we will have enough iPads in rooms that span two grade levels," the report stated. "A single teacher could get an iPad into every student's hands."

Keith noted that the district wants to get to a point where there are enough iPads available in each classroom for students to do interactive lessons.

"I think we are moving forward with our technology pretty well," Keith added.

Three or four MacMinis have also been installed at the elementary school computer lab to replace the Windows machines, helping students make the transition from the Windows operating systems to the Mac-based operating systems.

Board chairman Ross Kiehne said, "I'm impressed with the report and how much we've accomplished so far."

Future goals

In addition to what has been accomplished so far, the report listed other goals for technology implementation within the district, including the utilization of smart boards, e-books and ongoing staff training.