Some Ames High School students already have computers and laptops at home, but you wouldn't have guessed that by the large smiles on their faces as they were issued 11” MacBook Airs of their own Thursday.
Ames High School launched one of the state's largest one-to-one technology initiatives this fall through purchasing small laptops for each and every student. The computers were assigned during orientation programs this week.
“Now I can say, 'No you can't touch this, this is mine,'” said Nahla Altroon, who will be a freshman at the high school this year.
Altroon has four siblings and two computers at home and now she won't have to share.
“Thank you for purchasing this stuff, thank you a lot,” said Ibtisam Nurai, Altroon's mother.
Karl Hehr, the district's technology director, said other schools in Des Moines, Sioux City and Council Bluffs have issued laptops to students but in smaller numbers. He said during a brief orientation program Thursday that the devices will help eliminate the digital divide and provide each student with the same tools.
“Welcome to the 21st century, only 13 years late,” Hehr said.
Laptops were passed out this week so that students will be prepared to begin using them the first day of class Aug. 22. Hehr told students that they would be able to access all kinds of information and shared a story of how he learned how to fix his own washer by watching a YouTube video.
“Now when Mom and Dad can't help you, you can find those resources,” Hehr said.
Hehr said students in other districts with similar technology also used their devices to teach one another outside of school hours.
Students, such as Reyna Serna, a high school freshman, said they had used their own home computers to research information for school projects in the past.
“I think I'll be able to explore more things at home,” Serna said.
And Jackson Sullivan, a sophomore, said now he will have a better excuse to keep his laptop in his room.
Hehr said it's the district's goal to make the technology program one of the best in the country, which is why the district invited Iowa State University to research their program and provide feedback on how to improve it.
Matt Woodworth, whose son will be a sophomore at the school this fall, also has a computer and access to the internet at home but said it was neat to see how excited school administrators were.
“I like their enthusiasm about it,” Woodworth said.
Senior Elizabeth Settles seemed a bit apathetic.
“I don't think it's necessary,” Settles said.
Students have been registering for classes online, using email for communication and working via Google docs for years, Settles and her mother Nancy said.
“If the teachers use it to their potential, I think it's a good thing,” Nancy Settles said.