Piedmont students get Macbook laptops in new program

By Dixon Hayes

PIEDMONT, AL (WBRC) - Small, rural towns like Piedmont in Calhoun County are not known for high internet speeds.  But Piedmont is taking a road never travelled before on its way to the information superhighway.
School officials have kicked off a new program in which all students in grades four through 12--750 students--are receiving Macbook computers to take home with them.
Emily Kisor, a fourth grader, says it's awesome.
"I guess I'll just play with it a little, mess with it, find out what's on it, that kind of stuff," says Emily, quickly adding she'll do all of that after she finishes her homework.
The money for the program comes partly from a federal grant, partly from money freed up from a Calhoun County sales tax.  It's a four year payment plan.
Superintendent Matt Akin calls it a new kind of earning.  "It's no longer going to be learning where everyone sits in straight rows and learns the same way.  We can adapt to different kids' learning styles. ," he predicts.
School officials say in case one is ever lost, there is a tracking program that gives the coordinates for the laptop, plus makes a screen grab of what's on the screen at the time.  And a webcam takes shots of whatever's in front of the computer.  But school officials stress that will only happen if the computer is reported lost.
A Pennsylvania school district ran into major controversy, legal woes and embarrassment after someone in the school activated computers and spied on students.  Piedmont officials insist that will not happen in their system.
In case of loss, the computers are also insured.
Superintendent Akin says students and parents will have access to libraries now open later, plus wifi hotspots throughout town, as a way around any connectivity problems.  He says most of the students would likely have not been able to afford the laptops were it not for this program.

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