Whitworth upgrading technology

DALLAS -- Whitworth Elementary School will go wireless this year, thanks to a grant from the Spirit Mountain Community Fund.

DALLAS -- Whitworth Elementary School will go wireless this year, thanks to a grant from the Spirit Mountain Community Fund.

The $19,000 grant will pay for installation of WiFi at the school, allowing students to use iPads or laptops during class.

Mind you, students won't be languishing away hours on Facebook or Twitter during school. This technology upgrade is all about learning -- even if the students don't realize it at first.

"We are really interested in getting devices in the hands of kids. They still see (iPads) as entertainment ... they don't really see it as a learning tool," said Corin Richards, the district's instructional technology coach. "We want to provide this to kids so they can see how they can learn from it."

Richards said the upgrade is part of the district's response to state standards that will eventually require students to be proficient in the use of technology by the end of eighth grade.

At first, though, the focus will be on "digital citizenship." Much like codes of conduct in the classroom, playground or bus, students will be taught appropriate online etiquette. Then students will learn effective search methods and how to vet online sources.

Richards said the hope is by high school, students will be using technology in the same applications they will in college or their careers.

"We want them to be practicing the skills they need for higher education," Richards said.

The district will provide iPads or laptops for student use, depending on what teachers have planned. Eventually, the goal is to have students bring their own devices to work from.

This year, thanks to the technology upgrade, it's possible some student projects may be on display for a much wider audience than is typical.

"Our teachers are really interested in having students publish online," Richards said.

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