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Pilot program for technology-driven classrooms launcehd

By Nadine Wimmer | Posted - Dec. 7, 2012 at 7:23 p.m.


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SALT LAKE CITY — Twenty years ago every teacher wrote on blackboards. Fast forward ten years and markers replaced chalk. Then white-boards went up on school walls.

The next thing isn't just a smartboard, it's a smart classroom outfitted with iPads and flat screens. Friday, Utah lawmakers completed the launch of a pilot program of smart schools that will bring the future of learning to classrooms.

Every teacher and student at Dixon Middle School now has an iPad which they use in class and at home. With a flick of his finger, 8th grade teacher Glenn Lockwood can switch from his iPad to another student's.

"It's been a lot of fun because they can pull up stuff so quickly," he said. "And right now these guys are all in the right place and doing what they're supposed to be doing because the novelty has worn off."

So, the threat of distraction isn't his concern anymore like it was initially for many parents and lawmakers.

"An iPad isn't gonna assure that you get a good education," said Becky Lockhart, speaker of the Utah House. "You've got to work for it, you've still got learn what you need to do in order to use that tool in productive ways."

The formula or the new pilot program of smart schools is three schools for three years. Each school's principal applied to get the program which was passed in the legislature last year. In addition to iPads, each school was outfitted with flat screen TVs that connect to each iPad, and wireless internet with a comprehensive security system.

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"We anticipate every student in the state of Utah, and eventually every student throughout the U.S., will have access to this kind of remarkable technology, said CEO if iSchool Campus William Nixon.

The Governor's Office of Economic Development funded the program because the Governor wants to develop educational opportunities for the work force of the future. Legislators say technologically savvy students will be better prepared for the work force.

"If we have tech smart schools in Utah, it's easier to bring tech companies to Utah," said state Senator Jerry Stevenson. "Provo or Utah County is kind of the hub of our tech business in the state right now. This makes a lot of sense to be at this school."

But with this increased technology comes greater opportunity for learning about the good and bad online. Legislators say the security system was one of their biggest concerns in creating smart schools. Blanket security protects students from potential online threats.

Before this technology is implemented in every school across the state, an independent board will rate student's progress. But those involved are confident that smart classrooms are the way of the future.

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Nadine Wimmer

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