GROTON -- School officials were told last week that thanks to the support of residents who voted at town meeting to appropriate $325,000 for the purpose, the Groton-Dunstable Regional School District has truly entered the 21st century where technology is concerned.
The news came from the district's director of technology, Andrew Marcinek, who briefed the School Committee on purchases made with the funds and how successfully they have already been integrated into the lives of students and faculty.
"It's really exciting how (money raised by) the warrant article is impacting students every day," Marcinek said.
Marcinek said his choices on what to buy were based on previous experience gained in Burlington, his last place of employment, where large-scale technology planning was practiced.
Chief among the purchases were 600 Chromebooks -- more compact versions of a standard laptop computer that students can use to work on projects while communicating with teachers via a private email system.
Other purchases included 200 ipads for student use and projectors for teachers.
Teachers have also benefited from mobile hand units that do not keep them anchored to their desks as traditional desktop devices do. With the mobile units, they can wander throughout the classroom and mingle with students.
Enabling the most efficient use of all the new devices, said Marcinek, is the fact that all the school buildings currently have wireless access to the Internet.
In addition, old devices such as traditional laptops have not been replaced but repurposed, saving the district money.
"Overall, this has been a tremendous initiative," concluded Marcinek.
Speaking for students, high-schooler Zach Berard supported the changes, calling the new environment "incredibly different than in the past." Students, he said, now have no excuse for not getting work done.
Similarly, teacher Jeannie Erickson was also enthusiastic, finding it a relief that the new technology purchases were made with longevity in mind so that faculty will not have to relearn how to use new devices and programs every other year.
"I've never seen such an impact from an audit than I've seen with this program," said interim superintendent Anthony Bent, referring to the review of the district's technology needs prepared prior to the spending request made at town meeting. "We are in just a wholly different place than we were last year."