(04/21/2011)
By Bob Weaver

Calhoun Middle School was among a few West Virginia counties whose students received laptop computers 10 years ago.

It was a major initiative to bring 21st century technology to students.

According to information provided by the Local School Improvement Council of Calhoun-Middle High School, the county school system has a major problem with a shortage of broadband width.

Principal Karen Kirby told state media that the broadband problem at the county school is bogging down technology in classrooms when 500 students are trying to use the Internet simultaneously.

At a recent meeting of the school's LSIC, a report said broadband speed is "affecting CM-HS's testing ability for state required assessment and therefore not representing our student outcomes to their full potential."

"At the last testing the CM-HS administration was directed to shut down all wireless connectivity for students and faculty, but still did not have the speed needed to ensure successful bandwidth."

"This required administrative directive also negatively affected other student learning because of restricted access to the Internet, the report concluded.

Broadband speed at the county school is far below many other regional counties.

Kathy Wood, Calhoun OES-911 Director, said the state's installation of a broadband tower at Five Forks, the state's Interoperability Radio Project (WVIRP) will provide improved broadband service to the county school system.

The IRP radio system provides a new communication system for police, fire, ambulance and other responders, but will also provide broadband connectivity to state and county government and agencies.

Now, the decade-old initiative to place more laptops into the hands of students across the state has fizzled in many of the counties where it began.

Educators from around the state welcomed the technology to their schools with open arms.

As years passed, the laptops became obsolete and the wear and tear from being handled everyday by adolescents led to some schools discontinuing their use.

Calhoun Middle-High School, according to principal Kirby, is currently going strong in terms of laptops and iPad use in classrooms, thanks to various grants and Tools for Schools funding.

A dream of Brenda Williams, executive director of the WV Department of Education's Office of Instructional Technology has been to give laptops and mobile devices to every student and teacher in the state.

Her plan to spend $271 million over the course of four years, would make most textbooks available on-line.

The cash-strapped state legislature turned down the request that would have spent $54.3 million in the first year to begin furnishing more students with laptops and mobile devices.


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