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DARE COUNTY SCHOOLS MOVING TOWARD DIGITAL LEARNING

Heavy backpacks filled with textbooks may be a thing of the past when Dare County secondary students begin school next September. Instead, a laptop serving as a portal to their academic world may be all they need to engage in a new wave of learning. The Dare County school system is gearing up to join the ranks of 30 other North Carolina districts that have implemented the 1:1 Learning Initiative, which is aimed at leveling the playing field by providing computer access to every student 24 hours a day, seven days a week. "We want to prepare our students for their future, not our past," says Superintendent of Schools Sue Burgess. "Computers will not replace teachers but will be a tool for teachers and students. They will use it a good percentage of the time but not exclusively." Carrying an annual price tag of between $225,000 and $250,000, the initiative is dependent on school board approval and would fall within the district's current budget, the superintendent said. The district spends that much now leasing computers. If approved, children in grades six through 12 will each be issued a laptop to complete assignments, receive guided instruction, access on-line textbooks and participate in other interactive learning. Parents would be required to sign a contract before students would be issued a computer. Burgess said teachers and staff are currently undergoing a three-semester training program to prepare for implementation of 1:1. Meanwhile, students and staff have been rating and experimenting with computers to determine which devices would best suit the needs of the district. The anticipated launch comes after several years of research and consultations with other districts that already have the initiative up and running.

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