Detroit Public Schools launches first phase of massive technology upgrades to bring 40,000 laptop computers to 57 schools

Netbooks go live at Denby and Bethune-Fitzgerald schools this week

Detroit-Students of the Robotics Team at Denby High School were taught their first virtual lesson today using brand new laptop computers as part of a massive technology infusion initiative that will wire 57 Detroit Public Schools for 40,000 laptop computers this year.

The technology upgrades are funded by a $35 million American Recovery and Reinvestment Act grant combined with the voter-approved Proposal S bond issue.

“This investment will ensure that any barriers to technological accessibility are removed for our students and open up their classrooms to the world,” said Emergency Manager Robert Bobb.

Students in grades 6-12 at Denby High School and Bethune-Fitzgerald Academy are among the first in the Detroit Public Schools to participate this spring in the pilot program. An additional 55 schools will be wired this summer for the ASUS EEE Netbooks that were purchased through the 2009 American Recovery and Reinvestment Act. Infrastructure to support the wireless technology upgrade in each school is funded by the DPS School Construction Project through Proposal S dollars voters approved in Nov. 2009.

Once the technology installation is complete this summer, the 40,000 laptop computers will be accessible to all DPS students in grades 6-12 in the 2011-2012 academic year.

The Denby pilot program this spring includes total of 420 student netbooks and 59 instructor netbooks that plug into 14 charge carts, eight SMART boards, seven Promethean interactive white boards, and 69 document cameras.

“We are giving students an opportunity to connect to the world beyond the classroom through this digital curriculum using a language they are familiar with from birth,” said Denby High School Principal K. C. Wilbourn. “They are digital natives, and their mode of communication is technology. A technology curriculum also helps them to be competitive on a global level.”

The netbooks are equipped with Microsoft Windows 7 Professional, Microsoft Office, virus protection service, built-in wireless networking and integrated speakers, microphones and cameras. They have wireless internet access, which will allow students to access online textbooks and tools such as Learning Village, an education portal.

Students at Denby will use the Netbooks across the education curriculum, allowing science and other courses to be augmented by giving students on-site access to courses, online textbooks, lessons and resources not otherwise available. For instance, students in Robotics will have an early jump on Computer-Aided Design and other programs and will no longer have to work offsite on Robotics projects.

Because laptops are frequent targets of theft, they will be locked inside a secured vault when not in use. When class is in session, the laptops are wheeled out on a charge cart and unplugged for wireless use.

Denby High School is also currently undergoing $17 million in renovations to classrooms, restoration of the original art-deco auditorium, exterior upgrades including a new front security entrance facing Kelly Road, in addition to the technology upgrades for wireless laptop use.

Detroit voters approved Proposal S in Nov. 2009 which enabled the district to access $500.5 million for school capital improvement projects. DPS received the sixth largest allocation in the nation.

The improvement program also technology upgrades and security initiatives being funded with Proposal S dollars. To comply with federal guidelines, all bond dollars must be spent within three years and all projects must be completed by September 2012.

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