By JULIA ROBERTS GOAD
NAUGATUCK - “What are you here for?” Tug Valley High principal Johnny Branch asked the sophomore class.
The students were gathered in an assembly in the school’s auditorium as part of the Global Gateway program, which works to integrate technology into the school’s curriculum.
Earlier this year, the each junior at Tug Valley received a laptop computer as part of the program, so as Branch pointed out, half of the student body now has a laptop computer furnished by the Mingo County Board of Education.
“Your Board of Education has invested hundreds of dollars in technology for you,” Branch told the students.
The entire campus has wireless capabilities, and each classroom is equipped with smartboards, computers and projectors.
“I believe we are the best wired school in the state,” the principal said. Branch said there have been several one-to-one computing initiatives started by school systems that were later discontinued. He said the key to the success of TVHS’s Global Gateway is planning.
“Our students are ‘digital natives’,” he said. “They have grown up in a digital world.”
He said classes are already creating completely digital assignments. An example of this was a project where a class created avatars which gave book reviews of the literary classic The Scarlet Letter, by Nathaniel Hawthorne.
In fact, one of the objectives of Global Gateway is paperless assignments, along with helping students acquire 21st century skills and increasing student engagement.
The program received federal e-rate funding and an excess levy, Branch explained.
The computers, IBM Thinkpads, are equipped with anti-theft hardware and software, but Branch said that since the junior class received their laptops in January, there have been no thefts of lost computers.
The laptops have Skype installed, to enable students to engage with other classes around the world, as well as attend class when illness or other issues make it impossible to come to the building.
The school has firewalls that prevent access to websites deemed inappropriate or distracting, such as Facebook, but Branch said keeping the teachers keep children interested in class.
“The teachers keep the kids engaged,” he said. “There’s a lot of learning going on, they don’t get distracted.”
The principal said there there were 32 students to drop out of school two years ago, and mo more than three this year, a huge drop and a testament to the strides the school is making in helping students achieve success.