Mississippi Program Povides Computers, Fast Internet Access

Just like its namesake, Daniel Boone, blazed a trail through the American wilderness nearly 300 years ago, a small school district in northeast Mississippi is leading its own charge in creating the 21st century digital classroom.

That’s because the Booneville School District is part of a $1.2 million pilot technology project made possible through legislation signed into law by Gov. Phil Bryant last year.

Under the bill, Booneville received funding to pay for Google Chromebook laptops and Apple iPad Minis for all 1,300 K-12 students and 90 teachers along with new, state-of-the-art dedicated Wi-Fi infrastructure from C Spire for the district’s 20-acre elementary, middle and high school campuses.

The rural school district is one of a handful in the U.S. that have equipped students and teachers with the latest computing technology and high speed Internet connections so they can take advantage of the latest digital learning opportunities and efficiencies.

“We live in a technological world and our students need to be able to compete globally for the jobs of tomorrow,” said Booneville School District Superintendent Todd English. “This program allows us to improve the quality of education and save valuable financial resources at the same time.”

English said the technology initiative in his district is expected to open the door for other Mississippi schools to bridge the digital divide and help their students prepare for 21st century skills through digital learning. “We’re excited about our district serving as a laboratory for innovation and best practices for other schools and we’re more than willing to share our experiences to help others gain the same advantage.”

Students in third through 12th grade can take their laptop computers home for study, homework and research. The district also provides a back pack to carry the device back and forth. Children in kindergarten through third grade use their devices in the classroom, said district technology coordinator Dustin Pounders.

District officials said the introduction of new technology has received an enthusiastic response from students and teachers. “When students are excited and motivated about learning and expanding their knowledge base, teachers are excited,” English said. “It’s been particularly gratifying to see the response from some of our younger students. Words cannot describe how this dynamic has enhanced our schools.”

While Booneville’s education technology master plan needed advanced computing devices to jump start its efforts, district officials also recognized the importance of a robust network infrastructure. “Network infrastructure is critical because you need a fast, scalable superhighway to travel on when you’re using the Internet and that’s exactly what we have with the hosted Wi Fi solution from C Spire,” Pounders said. “Wi Fi gives us an anytime, anywhere educational solution for both now and in the future.”

C Spire’s hosted Wi-Fi solution, which was installed last fall and activated earlier this year at both Booneville campus locations, features 116 access points, providing wireless internet coverage throughout the district’s elementary and middle and high school campuses.

The solution also provides simultaneous wireless connections for every student and teacher in every classroom and throughout both campuses – allowing for access to web-based resources and digital learning tools like digital textbooks, library e-databases, reverse learning podcasts, electronic submission of assignments, real-time lectures and mobile applications.

English and Pounders said the pilot program and C Spire have helped accelerate implementation of the school’s technology development plan. “Without the state funding and the support from C Spire, we would have been several years away. They’ve definitely helped us leap frog ahead by four or five years and that’s huge progress for us,” Pounders said.