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Computers arriving in Portland schools in $2M upgrade
[December 12, 2012]

Computers arriving in Portland schools in $2M upgrade

PORTLAND, Dec 12, 2012 (Portland Press Herald - McClatchy-Tribune Information Services via COMTEX) -- In a $2 million technology upgrade, the Portland Public School District has purchased almost 1,000 Apple computers, most of them for elementary school teachers and students.

Some computers have already been handed out, but others continue to be distributed this month, district officials said Wednesday.

The funding came from the city's Capital Improvement Plan, approved earlier this year.

Elementary school teachers and students are getting 660 computers, while 325 new laptops are earmarked for high school students. Some of the funding will also pay to upgrade network infrastructure throughout the district and language lab workstations.

Currently, technology in the elementary schools is "completely a mishmash," according to Trey Bachner, director of Computer Technology Services. The recently built Ocean Avenue Elementary School, for example, has relatively up-to-date technology, but other schools have computers dating back to the 1990s.

"Elementary schools historically have always gotten hand-me-downs from the other levels," Bachner said Wednesday. "(But) the school board and the city said that from an equity perspective, we need to be looking at all levels." There are increasing reports that the very young -- even toddlers -- intuitively grasp how to use the latest tablet technology, and apps are written just for that age group.

"It's becoming more and more apparent that focus at the lower grades is just as important as the middle and high school grades," Bachner said.

Bachner said the elementary school teachers and administrators are getting Apple laptops, which means that "at the most basic level" every elementary school classroom will now have a computer.

Approximately 260 laptops will be distributed to elementary school teachers and administrators, while the remaining 400 Apple computers -- a mix of laptops and desktops -- will be for student use.

"The day before Thanksgiving, my students went on a virtual tour of the Mayflower," Kristen Fox, a teacher at Reiche Community School, said in a release. "This easy access to technological resources is an extremely valuable teaching and learning tool, and my students have become even more engaged with learning as a result." The school district did a major $1.3 million technology upgrade just two years ago for high school students.

In January 2010, the district distributed 2,129 netbooks to high school students. The district paid for the computers with $785,000 in federal money and $500,000 borrowed through the city's capital improvement program.

On Wednesday, the district said those netbooks are now obsolete and many no longer work.

Bachner, who started working for the district this year, said funding for technology upgrades has been "piecemeal" and that district and city officials are trying to create a more strategic cycle of funding for upgrades to school technology.

___ (c)2012 the Portland Press Herald (Portland, Maine) Visit the Portland Press Herald (Portland, Maine) at Distributed by MCT Information Services

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