Georgia County Outfits Students with iBooks

The time-honored tradition of a teacher with an Apple on their desk has met the 21st century in Cobb County, Georgia. The Cobb County School District has given the go ahead to procure up to 63,000 iBooks for teachers and students in a largest ever one-to-one computer learning initiative called "Power To Learn."

The first phase will begin as a pilot program this fall with the deployment of 17,000 iBook G4 laptop computers at four high schools. With continued school board approval, the program will be extended to all Cobb County high school and middle school students. All teachers K-12 will be provided with the laptops.

The iBooks will come preloaded with iLife software, Microsoft Office, World Book Encyclopedia, and a graphing calculator. The school district will lease the laptops at a cost of $350 USD per computer/per year, with a gross average of $5.9 million being spent per year.

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Once considered to be a venerable piece of classroom technology, Apple is battling to win back the confidence of school districts. Last week, the school board of Henrico County Virginia Public Schools dropped the company’s one-to-one laptop program in favor of a contract with Dell.

An evaluation committee consisting of nine of teachers, principals and administrators voted to recommend Dell's proposal, which was $4 million less expensive than continuing a pre-existing pilot program with Apple. "I think it says a lot that the committee's recommendation was 9-0 and the board's vote was 5-0," said Superintendent Fred S. Morton IV. "Unanimous decisions are pretty unusual."

"This is a great opportunity for us to provide our teachers the best teaching tools available. At the same time, we're going to test the concept of letting the students use those tools as well, all in a wireless environment where they will have access to information anytime and anyplace," said school board Chair Kathie Johnstone.

Instructional support will be initially provided by an Apple Project Management Team; a local repair facility will address technical issues and repairs. A surplus of computers will be on hand to ensure that each and every student has their own unit even while repairs are being made.

The county will operate a "Learning Development Center" with dedicated staff development specialists to train school district personnel to manage the program's logistics.

Power to Learn is paid for with funds from the $697 million SPLOST program. Other initiatives include district-wide persistent wireless Internet access. The program's effectiveness will be monitored by of Georgia's Learning & Performance Support Laboratory.

"I firmly believe that this is the best use of our technology dollars to prepare our students to be competitive in the 21st Century economy," said Johnstone.

More information is available from the school district's Web site.

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