Unit 5 middle school students to get lap tops

By WEEK Producer

August 9, 2013 Updated Aug 9, 2013 at 6:41 PM CDT

NORMAL, Ill. -- Marty Hickman is the director of technology for Unit 5 schools. Hickman and his staff have a big job, getting over 3,000 lap tops ready for all of district's middle school students.

"Most of them are new so (we do) everything from taking them out of the box to bringing them into the room you see here and putting a new image on them," explained Hickman.

On Friday they were busy installing operating systems. The lap tops are the next step in a digital conversion started last year by Unit 5 with its 6th graders.

"It replaces the 60 pounds of textbooks that junior high students bring in and out of the building on a day to day basis and makes it electronic," said Dr. Gary Niehaus, Unit 5 superintendent. "Its their world and what they thrive in and know."

And Niehaus says it will change the way students learn.

"If you flip the classroom you're getting your information at home and you're bringing it to school to complete the homework or complete a project where there would be more help from a teacher. I really think that's a benefit to both the teacher and the student," Niehaus said.

The new lap tops will cost Unit 5 just under $900,000. Students will be expected to take good care of them and be responsible. But if they're not, the district will know about it.

"There's a software package that we have called Vision that enables the teachers to see what the students are doing while in the classroom. We also filter internet activity," said Hickman.

It's a lot different than the old days when students were just passing notes.