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A Rural District’s Laptop Revolution

March 25, 2016

As the only English teacher at Vina High School in rural Vina, Alabama, Jessica Hamilton knows what it’s like to be “drowning in paperwork.” With over a hundred students in grades 7 through 12, and an assignment every day, she was struggling to turn essays around and give students the feedback they craved. But this year, Vina’s tech coordinator gave the class a gift: thirty laptops, which Hamilton says, “changed the whole atmosphere of the classroom.”

Instead of stacks of papers, Hamilton now uses Schoology and Google Drive to post and track assignments. Since she posts a whole week of assignments ahead of time, students have more flexibility and can work at their own pace. This approach has enabled Hamilton to spend class time with students who need extra support, and offer feedback in a much more timely and meaningful way. Best of all, she says, is that the online tools help her students keep track of their work. “The organization, it all being in one place and them never having to keep up with anything,” she says. “My students who struggled? Now they’re doing awesome.”

Since students take English with Hamilton throughout high school, they have years to hone their tech skills thanks to her laptop initiative. Other teachers and school leaders are taking notice – as Principal James Pharr put it, “Technology used in the right way can drive a whole school.” And in rural schools like Vina, it only takes a few computers to have a big impact.