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Hernando teachers get much-needed computer upgrade

BROOKSVILLE

Lorraine Armstrong, a math teacher at West Hernando Middle School, said that only the night before, she had been thinking about how nice it would be to have decent laptop for work.

"I was doing my lesson plans, and my old one quit like five times. It just powered down by itself," Armstrong said. "I had to save every five minutes, and I didn't save, so it was a little bit distressing."

Note the past tense.

Armstrong had just turned in her decade-old, charcoal-gray Dell laptop on Monday morning for a sleek, silvery HP ProBook. By the end of the month, every teacher in the Hernando County School District will have done the same.

The purchase of the 1,541 laptops for teachers — at a total cost of $950,000 — is the first phase of a five-year upgrade plan that will replace or update just about all of the school district's computers and software, including the 1980s-era TERMS system used to track student information and finances, said Joe Amato, the district's supervisor of technology and information services.

The old machines, Amato said, "were laggy and slow, and they had difficulty running big files."

The new ones will be "many times faster," he said, with far more memory and the ability to display high-definition presentations.

They are also designed for the hard knocks of the classroom, with water-resistant displays and keyboards and keys that can't be picked off by students.

There are no firm plans for the next phase of the upgrade, Amato said. But if funds are available, the district hopes to spend about the same amount of money on technology during each of the next five years.

The old teacher laptops will be cannibalized for parts, said Shellee Johnston, the district technology specialist who handed the new laptops over to West Hernando teachers on Monday.

"After that, they're done," Johnston said. "We don't want to be Cuba, having to make our own parts for them."

Almost every teacher that came to receive a new laptop Monday had a story about the failings of their old one.

Vicki Eng, an exceptional student education teacher, said hers generally had done the trick for the many reports she must write, but showed its age when she tried to make a presentation on the forces that caused the collapse of the Tacoma Narrows Bridge in 1940.

"I'm just really looking forward to (the new laptop) being faster," Eng said.

Besides stalling when she prepared lessons, Armstrong said, her computer routinely cut out in the middle of an interactive math game that her class especially enjoys.

She said the new machines will make nearly every aspect of teachers' jobs easier because they are used for nearly every duty — planning, attendance, progress reports and PowerPoint presentations.

"This is my lifeline," she said.

Contact Dan DeWitt at ddewitt@tampabay.com; follow @ddewitttimes.

Hernando teachers get much-needed computer upgrade 02/15/17 [Last modified: Wednesday, February 15, 2017 12:52pm]
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