About 600 Worcester Students Now Using Laptops In Class

BERLIN – A quarter of the high school students in Worcester County’s public schools are now learning with laptops.

Nearly 600 of the county’s 2,014 high school students have their own mobile devices thanks to the digital conversion launched in Worcester County this fall. Laptops have been provided to all of the ninth-graders in Worcester County public schools.

“It has been very exciting,” said Diane Stulz, coordinator of digital learning and instruction for the school system.

In a report to the school board this week, Stulz and Tom Mascara, coordinator of technology for the county’s schools, outlined the early September distribution of laptops at area high schools and discussed challenges they’d faced during the process.

“There were several dips and dives,” Mascara said.

He and Stulz were overwhelmed by the turnout at the first laptop distribution event, held Sept. 2 at Stephen Decatur High School. They handed out more than 300 laptops as 86 percent of the school’s ninth-graders showed up to get their new digital devices. As it was the first laptop distribution held, staff struggled to accommodate the large crowd of students and parents and to keep the process moving quickly.

Stulz said they also learned that they had to anticipate a certain number of late enrollments each year so they would have enough computers available.

By the time the laptop rollout events were held at Snow Hill and Pocomoke high schools, Stulz said organizers had fine-tuned the system so students were quickly able to sign in and get their computers. Seventy-six laptops were distributed at Snow Hill High — more than 80 percent of them at the rollout event — while 67 were distributed at Pocomoke High School.

Stulz said the new devices, which are now being used by all of the county’s ninth-graders, have enabled teachers to vary instruction methods and teach in new ways. Students are now spending 40-60 percent of their time in the classroom using their laptops. Stulz said that students needed a minimum of 21 percent teacher-led instruction.

“More than that would be considered an online course,” she said.

Stulz pointed out that while children in elementary and middle school were also using mobile devices, they still needed a significant amount of teacher instruction and were using them less frequently than the older students.

While it’s still early in the school year, Stulz said there hadn’t yet been any issues with damaged devices. She credited the Worcester County Education Foundation with providing protective carrying cases for all of the devices.

“That was a big commitment from them,” Stulz said.

The county’s digital conversion will continue in the future with each of the school system’s ninth-graders receiving a mobile device upon their enrollment in high school. The devices will remain with them throughout their high school careers and will become their own upon graduation.