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Perry Central awarded $100,000 for e-learning

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Money will be used to purchase laptops for fifth-graders; students to tinker, create

By VINCE LUECKE
Editor

LEOPOLD – Perry Central students will be encouraged to tinker, create and problem solve with the help of teachers, classmates and cutting-age technology. Also helping will be a $100,000 digital-learning grant awarded to the school last week by the Indiana Department of Education’s Office of e-Learning.

The money will be used to purchase laptops for fifth-grade students and will allow them to join older students who have already been assigned laptop computers.

Each of the 20 school districts in the state that were awarded grants had to complete two levels of application. The first was an online request completed by 132 districts. The field was narrowed to just 33 schools, each of which made proposals to the e-learning team.

“Our pitch had to include a vision for digital learning, a plan to carry it out and the capacity to be able to do it. It was an exciting and fun experience for us and we’re glad they liked (it),” high-school history teacher Phil Zellers said on a blog explaining the project.

Zellers said the team came up with what they call a “passion-based” learning program designed to give students input into how their classes will unfold. With the help of laptops that allow students to connect with each other and resources, regardless of location, they will pursue their individual interests as well as what their teachers know they need to study.

“We want students to have time, while at Perry Central, to pursue their own interests and passions. Being a history teacher, it’s hard for me to imagine some students not being passionate about studying the past and making connections to current events,” Zellers wrote. “Our goal with this project then, is to allow students to do both, learn what they need to learn and learn what they want to learn. We want this to be a project with students, getting their input throughout the process.”

Zellers said the grant-funded project places new responsibilities and expectations on students and taps their interests. “If we could sum it up in one statement it would be this: Less us, more them, meaning less lecture and facts and more facilitating,” said Zellers.

“We want students to create, tinker, and solve problems they care about. We want students to learn from failure, not be afraid of it. Imagine all the great inventions and ideas that would have never been if people stopped trying after failing the first time. Students should be imagining, wondering and innovating. They should have their ideas and projects heard and seen by authentic audiences giving them real feedback.”

The grant will likely be discussed at Tuesday’s regular meting of the Perry Central School Board. The meeting will begin at 7:30 p.m.