FARMINGTON — A top technology company has recognized the efforts of Farmington Municipal Schools staff to put a laptop in the hands of every middle and high school student.
Apple Inc. awarded Farmington Municipal Schools the Apple Distinguished Program Award for the district's Farmington Learning Initiative, which allows about 5,200 Apple laptop computers to be used by middle and high school students throughout the school year.
"I have nothing but praise and encouragement for our IT department," said the school district's superintendant, Janel Ryan. "They always looked at what is best for the kids and what the future is bringing."
Through the Farmington Learning Initiative, students at Farmington and Piedra Vista high schools are provided Apple MacBook Air laptops to use during the school year. Students at the district's four middle schools receive MacBook laptops. The goal of the program is to improve student achievement through the use of technology. The program is currently funded through a four-year $3.75 million loan.
During the district's board of education meeting on Dec. 16, representatives from Apple presented a plaque and banner to the district's technology staff.
Apple invited the district to apply for the award early in the 2013 fall semester, said Robert Emerson, assistant superintendent for educational services.
Technology department staff produced an application in Apple's e-book program, iBooks Author, which showed how the district's administration, faculty and staff displayed the five principles the Apple Distinguished Program promotes. The principles are visionary leadership, innovative learning and teaching, ongoing professional learning, compelling evidence of success and flexible learning environment.
"What we focused on in the application was the more creative things the kids are doing. That's where we see the power of the technology," Emerson said. "The kids are doing great work and using the technology effectively. I think that's what pushed us over the top."
The app showcases students' work, displaying the variety of projects students have completed on their laptops. Some of those projects include creating digital photography projects and making videos and computer animation with Apple's iMovie video editing software.
Farmington High School Principal Tim Kienitz said the initiative has given students the tools to access information and to create projects in the classroom.
"At Farmington High School, we feel that this award encourages our teachers to continue to integrate technology to engage students in their learning. Our goal as we move toward the future is to prepare our students for careers that are increasingly dependent on technology," Kienitz wrote in an email. "This award recognizes the accomplishment this far and motivates to continue the initiative in our classrooms."
Emerson said initial work on the initiative began as early as 2001, and it was implemented in 2008. The award from Apple provides a shot of encouragement as staff continue to evolve the program, Emerson said.
"It encourages us to continue in the way we are going," he said. "We are seeing those results. It kind of validates what we have been doing."