kids on computers(Castleton, VT) At Castleton Elementary School, computers are being integrated into the daily routine of 5th grade students thanks to a 1:1 computing initiative brought together by the e-Vermont Community Broadband Project and Digital Wish. Since 45 netbooks were put into the two 5th grade classrooms last fall, teachers have taken a liking to cloud-based computing tools such as Google Docs, Prezi, and PBworks.

Castleton has been considering the netbooks and their access to the Internet as a “tool” just like a pencil or textbook. Fifth grade teacher, Deb Alexander says, “I look at it as not something separate, not a project that they do, it’s just one more tool.” This makes the computers much more applicable to the students day-to-day use because instead of having students take out art supplies and make a poster about the water cycle, they can now develop a digital Prezi presentation online about the water cycle, incorporating text, pictures, and even digitally painted pictures the students drew themselves. By using the netbooks and web-based computing as a tool, it allows the students to finish with a similar end result while they gain valuable computing experience in the process.

It wasn’t just the teachers who got to experience the benefits of 1:1 computing in the school. Castleton’s Media Specialist, Lisa Cacciatore, commented on the impact the initiative had on the school, and how the program expanded to other grades. “The kids learned and were able to spend time every day on computers so they became very comfortable with the netbook use. That would be the biggest advantage. The kids had the Digital Citizenship Unit, too, teaching them how to be safe and respectful online. I know that this Grade 5 got a nice solid course on Digital Citizenship. We’ve since followed up with Grades 6-8 on some of the aspects of Digital Citizenship that Eric, our Digital Wish Trainer, taught to the 5th grade students.”

Digital Citizenship was the first of six units taught by Eric Bird, Lead Trainer and Program Coordinator for Digital Wish. He emphasized that the students keep safe, keep away from situations that are not appropriate, and keep telling adults if anything goes wrong. The Digital Citizenship course has been arguably the most important of all those taught by Digital Wish because it gave students a solid baseline for how they should act when using the Internet.

Eloise Ginty, Principal at Castleton Elementary, spoke about the overall benefits she has seen from Digital Wish’s program being implemented in her 5th grade classrooms. “I think that the greatest overall benefit with one-to-one is that [the students] had their own specific laptop where they could do individual projects and then take them home and share them with their family. The ownership of their own piece of technology where they could keep all of their work and be responsible for was really quickly embedded into the day just like a pencil – a tool that was really useful to them.”

This “tool” will continue to be used for the 5th grade students and will give them more experience with computers and the Internet as they head into the fast-paced demands of Junior High, High School, College, and further on when they compete for jobs.