Monday, January 15, 2001

Tech tools to aid lessons

Teachers gain resource

By Patrick Stack

        The Cincinnati Enquirer

        Withrow High School teachers are getting a digital boost.

        On Friday, 86 new IBM ThinkPad laptop computers were distributed at the Hyde Park school. Withrow is the first public school in Greater Cincinnati to use the IBM ThinkPad program, a move that school officials hope ultimately will lead to laptop computers for every student.

        “The neat thing about this is, it opens the classroom to any knowledge in the world,” said Principal Paul Ramstetter.

        Withrow bought the Pentium-III computers through the IBM ThinkPad at School program. Two-hundred-fifty schools across the country, primarily private schools, have used the program, said Brian McGinty, ThinkPad at School program manager for IBM.

        The computers cost about $2,500 apiece with all the necessary hardware and software, Mr. Ramstetter said. The school is already equipped with Internet ports in each classroom.

        The 78 full-time teachers each received a laptop. The other computers will be used for student training and other school uses, Mr. Ramstetter said.

        Teachers will be given training in the use of the laptops and will be allowed to take the computers home to gain familiarity. The teachers can then begin to integrate the laptops into their lessons, said Rick Johnston, history department chairman.

        “I believe it will offer new opportunities for learning for our teachers and for our kids,” he said.

        Cincinnati Country Day School, where laptop computers are already integrated into the curriculum, partnered with Withrow to help expedite classroom use of the computers, Mr. Ramstetter said. Teachers from Withrow can go to free seminars with teachers from Cincinnati Country Day to learn more, he said.

        In addition, Withrow students will be trained in computer repair, both to make on-site repair easier and as part of the school's technical training for computer careers, Mr. Ramstetter said.

        Withrow already has two classrooms — biology and English — in which each student gets a laptop. Students in Doug Stevens' English class used laptops to make Microsoft PowerPoint slide presentations on books they read.

        Students also can do interactive lab reports, use sensors connected to the computer and get homework help online, said Molly O'Donnell-Good, a biology teacher.

        Industrial education teacher Joe Hartwig said he was excited about the new laptops.

        “There's various Web sites I can go to and show the kids, and have them do research projects and assignments with resources I don't have,” he said.

        While the current laptops are for teachers' use, Mr. Ramstetter said he would like to bring computers to all students at Withrow. He said he hopes the school could receive grants and develop a program for subsidizing student computer purchases by the next school year.


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