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Laptops Replace Textbooks in Forsyth Classrooms

FORSYTH, Mo. -- Computer-based curricula could save the district money and will help the school prepare for standardized tests.
WEB EXTRA (above): Watch a video lecture produced by the new technology

FORSYTH, Mo. -- A healthy amount of silliness erupted in Mr. Caleb Moon's science classroom as students aimed marbles at a coffee can through a plastic tube. The students shouted and laughed as the small glass balls missed the targeted coffee can one after the other, until they finally calibrated the apparatus perfectly.

Moon began teaching at Forsyth in August, and has embraced goofy teaching methods like the marble experiment, designed to teach students physics concepts like speed and acceleration.

In his spare time, he also produces funny instructional videos. Often, they take place in front of a green screen with Moon dressed in costume. And thanks to a one-to-one initiative that provides every middle and high school student with a laptop, every one of his pupils can view their instructor's antics from home.

"This connects them to a wider world of learning," Moon said. "Not just Googling something. There's many other websites that can help them understand."

Two doors down the hall, Dylan Jordan at his computer in a social studies classroom. He and his classmates read from an e-book--the laptops replace most of the school's texts--and answered questions in an online forum.

"It's really convenient having everything right there," Jordan said. "You have all your resources, all your homework assignments, all your textbooks and stuff are online. So it's pretty cool."

The electronic system the school uses automatically grades many of the multiple choice and short answer quizzes the school administers. In the spring Forsyth and every other district in Mo. will take standardized tests online, part of the state's adoption of Common Core curricula.

"Since there are new standards we are implementing those," explained Tara Roberts, who helped students and teachers learn how to use the laptops and software at the beginning of the year. "We're very grateful for the fact that we do have the use of technology to incorporate those standards."

Critics of one-to-one programs point out that test scores and student achievement rarely increase with the use of technology. But several studies do suggest that students are better-engaged, schools save money by switching to e-books and graduates are more tech savvy when the enter the workforce.

“I try to use it daily because that’s the world we live in,” Moon said.

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