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Digital conversion edges closer in Worcester Schools

(Feb. 6, 2015) Worcester County Schools have selected the devices ninth-grade students will be issued at the start of the 2015-16 school year, while the Worcester County Education Foundation continues to raise the funds to pay for the technology.

A focus group of students from three high schools, including students from special education and English for speakers of other languages, have selected laptops rather than chromebooks or tablets to be distributed as part of the schools’ digital conversion initiative.

The idea of the Digital conversion initiative, which will begin in September, is to make computer technology available to all students at a 1:1 ratio.

“As we went through the process, we realized the students would be the best engineers, so we set a protocol where they would test every device for every student,” said Diane Stultz, coordinator of digital learning and instruction for Worcester Schools.

The students performed word processing, drawing, presentation and online program application tests, as well as tasks associated with the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers testing, which will also use digital devices.

Laptops ran away with the race, with 57 percent of students preferring them to chromebooks with 23 percent and the 20 percent who liked tablets best.

From the results, Stultz found the evaluating students often chose the devices with which they were the most familiar.

“They would say the laptops were good because that’s what they were used to or a tablet because that’s what they had at home,” she said.

The selection, ordering and distribution schedule already provided was, Stultz admitted, optimistic, but the process is ongoing and the target distribution date is still firmly within her sights. Later this month, Stultz will make her recommendation to the Board of Education for the purchase of the laptops. Ordering will begin after the board’s approval.

To compensate for a funding formula that leaves Worcester County without the substantial state funding granted to almost every other county in Maryland, local business leaders and politicians formed the Worcester Education Foundation. The foundation is a public/private partnership tasked to raise the money to pay for the devices, which they estimate at $1 million.

Seeded by a donation of $100,000 by Taylor Bank delivered at the foundations inception breakfast late last year, Foundation Chairman Todd Ferrante said the foundation has raised another $25,000 in the past few months toward their goal.

“We’ve had some very nice pledges, and our board members have been giving of themselves to support the foundation,” he said.

Dr. Leonard Berger donated his birthday gifts to the foundation, totaling almost $10,000, Ferrante said. Keri Berger, Leonard’s wife, is a board member of the foundation.

“We really appreciate what Dr. Berger, and most especially his guests, have provided,” Ferrante said.

Some of the donors, Ferrante noted, wish to remain anonymous, but he said there are additional substantial donations on the horizon. Ferrante said M&T Bank is expected to make a contribution today, but declined to mention the amount.

The foundation’s website offering online donation options, will soon replace the one currently at www.WCED.foundation. Ferrante said he expects it to launch within the next two weeks.

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