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Iredell-Statesville System Looks To Keep Providing MacBooks For Students

Person using laptop computer. align=left
WFAE file photo
Person using laptop computer. align=left

Federal funding is running out for a program that provided many students in Iredell-Statesville Schools with laptops and a tailored approach to learning. District officials say they will keep it going.

Since 2012, students in grades 6 through 12 in the Iredell-Statesville County school system have had a MacBook laptop that they can take home, thanks to a $20 million Race to the Top federal grant. The money also funded a blended learning curriculum, where instruction is individualized. Some may work on assignments on the computer, others in small groups or one-on-one with a teacher.

“We know students learn at different rates and levels, so we want to make instruction to the students as relevant as possible to their needs,” said Phillip Hardin, who oversees the program for the district.

Hardin said about 25 people were hired to train teachers to incorporate the blended learning and computers into lessons, and assist with the technology, which the grant paid for, but it runs out this year.

“Those positions will continue long term because we know the teachers will continue to need professional development,” he said.

Hardin said they are also looking for money in the budget to replace the computers in a couple of years, which cost nearly $1,000 each. He says it’s worth it because the computer learning will make district students more competitive when they graduate.

“Our students have to be competitive across the U.S. and world and be able to work in an environment and collaborate where they have to use online resources and they have to have to ability to get an education using online resources,” he said. “It would be detrimental if they had to go back and depend on textbooks.”

Hardin said long term the district plans to get help from more grants but for now the plan is to include the program in next year’s budget. 

Gwendolyn is an award-winning journalist who has covered a broad range of stories on the local and national levels. Her experience includes producing on-air reports for National Public Radio and she worked full-time as a producer for NPR’s All Things Considered news program for five years. She worked for several years as an on-air contract reporter for CNN in Atlanta and worked in print as a reporter for the Baltimore Sun Media Group, The Washington Post and covered Congress and various federal agencies for the Daily Environment Report and Real Estate Finance Today. Glenn has won awards for her reports from the Maryland-DC-Delaware Press Association, SNA and the first-place radio award from the National Association of Black Journalists.