As his fellow students have adapted to using district-issued laptops, Taylor Pechuekonis has grown frustrated with the way some have taken the machines for granted.
“I hear kids now complain about ‘Why do we have MacBook Airs instead of our old [laptops]?’ ” says the Mooresville High School junior, who is working at the school’s technology help desk as an elective course for a second semester this fall. “I don’t know why they complain about that kind of stuff, when some people don’t even have books sometimes.”
But while Pechuekonis spends his time fixing problems he says usually aren’t “the computer’s problem, but the person’s,” his frustration with the somewhat entitled psyche of today’s technology-oriented high school students might actually hearten advocates of the Mooresville Graded School District’s digital-conversion approach. It shows that digital learning, at least in the Mooresville, N.C., school system, is a daily expectation among students, and that the tools themselves have become as commonplace as pencils and paper.
“It’s pretty routine,” Sierra Rivers, a junior who moved to the district from Fredericksburg, Va., four years ago, says of the 1-to-1 laptop program. “I’ll go to my dad’s house, because he doesn’t live in this district, and they’ll say, ‘Let me see your laptop—this is so cool.’ And I’m just like, ‘This is normal.’ I don’t ever not have it.”
Rivers’ words echo claims that the conversion is one of the best ways to meet students in their comfort zones. And while that can sometimes reinforce the attitude that drives Pechuekonis batty, the district’s technology staff feels confident it has the right measures in place to reward students who are better caretakers of their devices.
With its laptops, the Mooresville district issues identical Apple-approved book bags for every student. And while it does redeploy new laptops every two or three years, serial numbers cataloged by the technology staff mean the same student receives the machine each year through the two- to three-year cycle, regardless of wear.
Rivers, through the prism of other experiences, sees the digital conversion as representing a culture of district excellence. And that’s why she understands why educators are coming from all over the country to see how Mooresville operates.
“Everything here is so much more advanced: our football field, our laptops, our teachers, and our students,” she says. “And you have a lot of AP and honors classes.”
A version of this article appeared in the October 19, 2011 edition of Digital Directions as Beyond ‘Wow’ Factor