Pencils down, laptops up

"They're engaged," said Jones. "They had no idea they were doing things that were learning."

Students in Jones's class have been using computers and a Flip camcorder in conjunction with their writing workshop activities. The fourth graders are drafting instructions for their favorite activities, like baking cookies, starting a dirt bike or making a drawing, which are edited by Jones before being performed by the students. The videos were compiled into a movie and shown to parents.

They're also using their own Wiki pages to submit reports on the books they're reading, and their classmates read and comment on these reports.

Clarksville's supply of laptops is carted from one class to another, and setup is made simpler by wireless Internet, which is now broadcast throughout the school.

Fourth grader Kara Doyle said that she likes putting comments on her classmates' Wikis. Her mother, Jane Doyle, who was visiting her daughter's classroom as part of American Education Week, said that the younger generations take to digital learning like ducks to water.

"I'm trying to keep up with them," she joked.

Clarksville Principal Dorothy McDonald agreed and said that having high-tech learning available is an excellent way to engage students, and noted that the skills they are developing by using social networking and other tools will be required of tomorrow's work force.

"We have been so energized by the new opportunities technology has provided," she said. "It's a means to an end, but it's rich, it's engaging."

McDonald said she would love to have more resources available, especially projectors, but acknowledged that budgetary concerns make it tough to deck out the schools with the latest technologies. She said the students at Clarksville are getting plenty of high-tech experiences with the resources available.

Despite constant budget concerns, the declining price of computers and other technologies mean their use has become more widespread in recent years. All BC elementary schools have laptops that can be carted from class to class. At the middle and high schools, students have access to computer labs and at the middle school an "academic technology management" course is offered. Also at the middle school, the morning announcements are broadcast in video.

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