What began in 2002 as a pilot for 9th grade students at one high school has grown into a district-wide initiative to provide Dell Latitude Laptops to every high school student in the Roanoke County Public School District. The district was recently named by the Center for Digital Education and National School Boards Association as one of the “top digital school districts” in the country for 2013. Today, in recognition of Roanoke County’s early vision to innovate learning, Dell and the Roanoke County Public Schools (RCPS) host national leaders in education for the “Innovation in Teaching and Learning Think Tank,” to discuss best practices around digital tools and resources.
For the past 11 years, Roanoke County Public Schools in Virginia has partnered with Dell to grow its 1:1 laptop initiative, now reaching 6,000 high school students across five schools, and providing laptops to 1,600 instructional staff members. "We've had a long relationship with Dell since the beginning of our laptop initiative more than ten years ago," said RCPS superintendent Dr. Lorraine Lange. "We are committed to empowering our students through technology and the 21st century skills of collaboration, communication, creativity and critical thinking."
In 2002, Hidden Valley High School became the first school in Western Virginia to provide laptops to its students. After a successful pilot providing Dell Latitude laptops to incoming freshman, RCPS worked closely with Dell to strategically scale the program – identifying appropriate laptops, IT infrastructure, and additional services and accessories to support end-to-end implementation of a technologically-enabled learning environment and the long-term sustainability of a district-wide 1:1 laptop initiative.
Roanoke County Public Schools is creating a technology-enriched learning environment centered on the educator and student experience. Each incoming freshman student receives their own new Dell™ Latitude laptop with Windows 7, which is pre-loaded with Microsoft® Office 2010, curriculum software including titles for math and science, and learning tools like Blackboard Learn™ and Blackboard Collaborate.
For Roanoke County, learning experiences were at the heart of the 1:1 expansion. The technology and associated tools allow students to pursue their unique academic interests and support learning inside and outside of the classroom. These tools allow students to access more than 90% of their textbooks on their laptops. Each Latitude laptop has also been optimized to facilitate collaborative learning. Using education applications like Blackboard Learn, students can engage with content and take learning beyond the classroom.
Instruction is customizable and tailored to various learning styles and curricula. Students at the district’s Center for Engineering work together to program LEGO® robotics, while others at the Governor’s STEM Academy at the Burton Center for Arts and Technology use their laptops to design computer games and online virtual environments. Some science teachers have students use their laptops to tap into and analyze data from national sources as part of virtual science projects in coordination with regional institutions of higher education. Teachers are able to analyze students’ online test scores and tailor individual interventions before students fall too far behind.
To Dr. Lorraine Lange, the laptop initiative’s impact has deeper implications for Roanoke County. Since 2004, the school district has experienced a significant increase in the percentage of disadvantaged students. Lange believes that all students, regardless of socioeconomic circumstances, deserve the level playing field that access to technology can provide. “The key factor in how the laptop initiative has helped close the socioeconomic gap is that all this comes at little cost to the student,” she reports. “Students pay only a nominal insurance fee, and even that is significantly reduced for students with demonstrated need.”