Education News

Tornado Disaster Propels Joplin’s Laptop Plan

Tornado Disaster Propels Joplin’s Laptop Plan

Joplin, Missouri school district lost 25 campuses last May when deadly tornadoes devastated the area.

With less than three months to prepare for the next school year, school district officials launched an ambitious program that would rely on digital technology: Joplin’s 1-to-1 Laptop Program.

With a generous $1 million donation from the United Arab Emirates, an Persian Gulf nation, the Joplin school district was able to buy all of its 2,200 students personal laptops so that they could learn in a virtual classroom setting while the town’s only high school was rebuilt.

In the fall of 2011, each student received a laptop and was able to meet virtually with teachers outside of class time and during tutoring. A vacated mall was used as a make-shift school. Despite the devastation that surrounded Joplin, the school district united to provide displaced students with a place where they could continue their education. It wasn’t a seamless program, but the digital integration allowed teachers and the students to develop skills required in the 21st century.

Some teachers embraced the change, while many were hesitant. History teacher Andy Ritter reflects on the integration.

“It took a great element of trust that [Superintendent Huff] thought the staff could, in just almost 50 days, go from teaching with textbooks to teaching with laptops,” Ritter says. “And I really feel that we need to step up to the plate and honor that trust professionally and ethically, and just as a community.”

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Photo Courtesy: Education Week/Nicole Frugé/Digital Directions