PORTLAND — A $2 million investment from the city has allowed the School Department to purchase 660 new computers for elementary school teachers and students across the district.

Before the $2 million was allotted from the city’s capital improvement plan, elementary schools were relying on obsolete technology that did not meet teacher’s instructional needs, the department said in a press release.

“The main focus (of the funding) is an improvement in elementary school access to good technology in an equitable fashion,” said Trey Bachner, director of technology services for the district. “(The new computers) will actually be reliable versus the past practice of elementary schools getting hand-me-down systems that were already pretty well on their way to being antiquated. This will help the elementary schools be on a very similar level to the high schools.”

The new computers allow teachers to explore such resources as Google Earth, Tumblebooks and online math and reading programs. They also provide tools for assessments, professional development and planning with other staff members.

Kristen Fox, a Reiche Community School teacher, said the improved access to technology has engaged her students in their learning.

“The day before Thanksgiving, my students went on a virtual tour of the Mayflower,” she said.

Purchases of the new Apple laptop computers began in the early fall. The new computers replace outdated computers for teachers, and supplied computers for those who did not previously have their own.

Starting this month, the district plans to distribute 400 new Apple computers in the elementary schools. These computers will allow students to use several online reading and math programs as well as other instructional technologies not supported by current computers.

In addition to the improvements at the elementary school level, some of the capital improvement funds will allow the department to make $550,000 in network infrastructure upgrades to update workstations for the multilingual labs at three schools and to provide mobile carts with new computers for each high school to replace some of the netbooks being used by those students.

The netbooks that each high school student receives were purchased several years ago through the district’s budget and grant funding. The 325 new laptops will replace the obsolete computers and will be used for class projects and assessments.

“The new laptops will help our high school students develop the technology skills that they need in order to prepare for college and careers,” said Bachner.

Janny Kerkhof, Reiche Community School’s building technology coordinator, said that the technology upgrades were necessary and overdue.

“Bringing a G4 iBook to educational venues promoting 21st century teaching and learning is like showing up at the Kentucky Derby with a three-legged horse,” she said in a press release.

Amber Cronin can be reached at [email protected] or 781-3661 ext. 125. Follower her on Twitter @croninamber.

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