MARTIN — Though it began as just an idea over a decade ago, Floyd County Schools have now welcomed the era of technology as a central tool in education with the digital conversion project’s ribbon cutting ceremony on Tuesday at May Valley Elementary.
“Isn’t this a beautiful sight?” Superintendent Dr. Henry Webb asked the assembled crowd as they surveyed the fifth graders who had gathered in the library to cut the ribbon. He says that their research had shown students were already using technology everywhere but school; nearly every hand went up when he asked the kids who had a cell phone or who watched YouTube in their free time.
Webb applauded the teachers, who responded to his survey and overwhelmingly said they were willing to take on the extra training for the kids of Floyd County. And he credited the school board, who were willing to find the money to pay for the over 1,000 laptops every year.
It was when administrators opened the doors to the classroom, however, that the project really began to show its potential.
After only three days of use, students have already acclimated to the environment. In math class, students were going through review questions in a class-wide game-show-style quiz. They then accessed their digital math textbook, and used their headphones to cover vocabulary words at their own pace.
In social studies class, students ran through a list of activities about protests during the Revolutionary War. While some were holding virtual conversations with the founding fathers, others were putting together picture-laden research articles, and others were video conferencing with students from the high school’s Early College Academy program.
Social studies teacher CaSandra Fulks says that she is able to track students’ work and assessments, to see if a particular student is lagging behind the group or if the whole group is struggling with a particular topic. She says the laptops allow students to answer their own questions and learn more if they have an interest in a topic, and with the laptops at home, they aren’t limited by time in class or the finite contents of a book.
With over 28% of Floyd County below the poverty line according to the Census Bureau, not every child has grown up with a computer and Internet access in their home. But with the digital conversion and the help of their peers and teachers, every single student starting in 5th and 9th grade this year will have the basic computer skills that are absolutely vital in higher education and most every career.
One of the guests at the ceremony was Kentucky Valley Educational Cooperative executive director Jeff Hawkins, who said that Floyd County was exemplifying nationwide leadership in bringing such a massive project to Eastern Kentucky, and awarded the Board of Education with the Michelangelo Award, in honor of their contributions to what he calls the Appalachian Renaissance.