Eastland-Fairfield students provided laptops

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 Messenger photo by Linda Dillman
 Eastland-Fairfield Career and Technical Schools Marketing Director Tresa Durkin hands a new laptop over to law enforcement student Daniel Reinhart during a distribution session at the Eastland campus. The district is passing out new Acer computers to all students at the career centers to use inside and outside the classroom.

Students were waiting outside the doors of the Eastland Career Center on Aug. 5 to be the first in line to pick up a new free computer,  a device now deemed just as important as the traditional textbook.

A similar situation happened at the Fairfield Career Center a few miles down the road as career and technical students presented permission forms in exchange for the $600 Acer laptop, which they will use for school work inside and outside the classroom.

Approximately 1,100 juniors and seniors-not including students enrolled in the district’s satellite programs around the county-are receiving the computers, paid for through the district’s general fund, as part of Eastland-Fairfield’s commitment to keep students on the cutting edge of technology.

When asked what he thought about the computer giveaway, Eastland law enforcement student Daniel Reinhart said the laptop is a great idea and will help him by opening up more job opportunities.

"It will help me prepare for a job in the future," said Reinhart, "and it will make class work a lot easier. I won’t have to carry so many books anymore or write so much by hand. I never thought I would have my own laptop computer."

Juniors are issued laptops for a two-year period and seniors can keep the hardware until they graduate. Director of Business Affairs Jeff Hobbs said, once a student graduates, they are given the option of buying their computer at a greatly reduced price or turning it back in to the district.

The systems are loaded with Microsoft Office and many other basic features, in addition to software geared for individual classes. According to Hobbs, even though the computers are taken home, students must still follow all school guidelines and a code of conduct in using the laptops.

Damage or misuse of the notebook computers could result in disciplinary action and a legal guardian or the student themselves could be charged for damages, since the computers are considered school property while in a student’s possession.  Students were also told they should not expect privacy for computer files, hardware, software, and peripherals and any staff member may examine a student’s laptop at any time to verify compliance.

"Our superintendent (Dr. Mark Weedy) has such a vision and wants all of our students to have world-class skills and technology in their hands. He has invested a lot in technology in the classroom and our teachers are excited," said Tresa Durkin, marketing director. "The response has been great and they were waiting at the door before we opened.

"Everything is online for the kids and if a student is absent, they can access information from home on their laptop. This is how students learn and when they want to know something, they usually go to the computer. The laptops also seem to be helping retention because we haven’t had as many students changing their mind about coming to the schools this year. It’s another learning tool, just like a textbook."

Hobbs said both the Eastland and Fairfield campuses are wireless and the district has a policy of turning over technology every three years, finances permitting. When instructors were given the option of choosing between a laptop and a desktop computer, the business director said a majority of the staff also selected laptops.

"Technology is our business," stated Hobbs. "We have to give kids an opportunity they might not have through their home school. We had a pilot program in the spring with about 50 kids in two government classes and handed out laptops to the juniors. The teachers did a terrific job and the last nine weeks went really well.

"Our goal was and is to make sure all of our career center students have computers because a lot of them don’t have a computer at home. It gives them options they might not have otherwise. Each individual will take their skills to different levels and it is a win-win for parents as well."  

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