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OHS Launches e-Backpack Digital Learning Initiative

September 5, 2014...Over 1,100 ninth and tenth grade students at Osbourn High School (OHS) started the first day of school with a brand new Asus Transformer T100 Hybrid tablet thanks, in part, to a grant offered by the Virginia Department of Education-- a trailblazing move being applauded by educators who say such devices are expected to replace traditional textbooks in the years to come.

Manassas City Public Schools (MCPS) began implementation of the first of three phases of the OHS e-Backpack Digital Learning Initiative in the spring of 2014.  Aimed at bringing more 21st Century technology into the classroom, the primary goal of the initiative is to provide both students and teachers with the digital tools needed to access real-time resources that support collaboration, creativity, critical thinking and communication in the classroom. 

Use of the tablets requires a wireless connection, which helps the student stay connected to their resources anywhere Wi-Fi is available.  According to Lisa Warner, an assistant principal at OHS, the tablets will give students the opportunity to use some of the resources they have at school even after the school day is over.  “This initiative opens the door for interactive learning to extend beyond the classroom, which is a huge benefit for our students,” Warner said.

The first phase of the initiative supports use of the tablets in all World History and Geography courses, using a newl-adopted digital curriculum platform. Social Studies teacher Barry Sudduth, who has been teaching for 43 years, said the classroom has come a long way from “a box of chalk and a pat on a back.” Sudduth, along with other social studies teachers, received training in the new digital curriculum before school started. 

Meagan Provines, another Social Studies teacher at OHS, sees the initiative as a complementary tool for students who generally use a variety of technology outside the classroom.   “Putting the tablets in the hands of our students gives them the opportunity to harness the knowledge they have of technology and blend it with their academics.”

Melissa Neal, K-12 Social Studies Specialist for the school division, believes the initiative will also help support a “standards-based curriculum” that transcends the traditional textbook.  “These students will have access to interactive maps, informative videos and the option to have the “voice” of the curric ulum read aloud to them,” Neal explains.  “This will be a new way of learning for many of our students, which is truly exciting.” 

Warner notes that students should not expect the tablets to completely replace the traditional teaching and learning environment they have been accustomed to.  “The tablets will support student learning by integrating the technological tools they have become used to using, however, teachers will remain in the classroom to provide leadership and guidance on how students can become responsible citizens in the area of digital literacy – a skill they will need when they enter college or the workforce.”