Improving School Performance and Career Preparation with a Wireless Computer Lab

Article excerpt

October 2003--Feature

Two years ago, mandeville high school (http://mandevillehigh.stpsb.org/in in Louisiana purchased a mobile wireless computer lab with grant funds from the state. This lab not only helped improve the writing and research skills of the school's ninth-grade students, but also improved its overall performance score to become one of the highest performing schools in the state.

In actuality, the securing and utilization of the mobile computer lab was the culmination of an ambitious school-wide technology plan spanning four years. A plan that began with 32 computers and a facility needing substantial retrofitting just to meet basic electrical needs. This article will serve as a framework for administrators and teachers who strive to bring curricular technology integration to their students, while also trying to raise school performance scores as related to accountability programming.

Developing a School Technology Plan

The first step in technology integration is developing a long-range plan. A five to 10 member technology committee containing teachers, parents, community members and students should be formed and charged with the task of formulating such a plan--assessing the current status and usage of technology and determining where the school community should be in three years. The committee should also assess the school's infrastructure and basic needs such as electrical considerations, furniture, carts and Internet access. In addition, current hardware, including computers, printers, scanners, projectors, cameras and TVs, as well as software should be inventoried considering age and appropriateness related to future needs.

After this assessment, a projection of where the school wants to go should be made based on curricular needs and how technology can help those requests. It is not uncommon for schools to labor excessively on hardware and software requirements, while forgetting about anticipated plans for their usage and/or how it applies to curricular issues such as accountability-related testing programs. During the development of this plan, resources, including other schools, appropriate literature, and hardware and software companies, should be consulted. Also, as the plan is formulated, the generation of required funds must be considered and should be just as detailed and thought-out as the sections of the technology plan addressing usage. Within our school technology plan, it was deemed necessary to acquire a wireless mobile computer lab to assist with career preparation and help students get ready for state-mandated tests, which comprised part of the overall school performance score. Primarily, a mobile computer lab was needed at the school because there was no room for additional fixed labs.

Strengthening Academic Weaknesses

Project CREATE (Careers, Research and Exploration, Application, and Technology Education) was designed to use wireless technology as a catalyst to integrate computer application skills into the writing process with an emphasis on research for future careers. A major goal of the project was to improve the lifelong skills of technology usage and writing of ninth-graders.

Project CREATE focused on careers, while giving students the technology, research and writing experiences necessary to help create their futures. The project sought to produce students who were critical thinkers, independent problem-solvers, as well as information seekers and processors. It also sought to cultivate students who were more aware of the career options available to them, as well as the skills and coursework necessary to pursue those careers. Overall, there were more than 365 regular and special needs ninth-graders impacted by this project.

Project CREATE was implemented through the addition of a mobile computer lab containing 32 wireless, networked laptop computers to the instructional environment of the school. …