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Gainesville City Schools looks at expanding technology
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Gainesville school board members reflect on Lawrence

Ray Lawrence, former Gainesville school board member and chairman, passed away Sunday at the age of 80.

“Ray was a soft-spoken, gentle man,” said board member Sammy Smith. “Very active in his church at Lakewood (Baptist Church). He was very successful at his business, Lawrence Pharmacy, which was a community pharmacy for many, many years until he sold it.”

Gainesville Superintendent Merrianne Dyer said she went to school with Lawrence’s children.

“He loved Gainesville City Schools,” she recalled. “He always supported the schools in whatever we were doing.”

“Ray was a quiet and effective force for the schools,” Smith added. “I remember his service on the school board. (He was) quite exemplary, and we’ll miss a fellow like Ray Lawrence.”

Carly Sharec

A goal of the Gainesville school system is to have a personal tablet in the hands of each student, preferably within five years.

A discussion about increasing technology availability was held at the Monday work session of the school board.

Director of Technology Keith Palmer and Director of Curriculum and Instruction Jamey Moore presented information about the availability of learning materials via personal devices such as tablets. 

Websites and mobile apps are available for teachers and students to download free or for a small fee. 

Teachers are also able to create and upload their own notes and study materials for instant access.

“That’s a big piece of where technology is going,” Moore said. “Just customizing the learning, personalizing everything that’s going on.”

A personal device such as the KUNO tablets currently being distributed to Fair Street School students would serve as a “digital backpack,” Moore said. 

Teachers are able to upload all materials the student needs to complete homework and studying overnight. Home-based Internet access would not be required.

Palmer said he would like to see all Gainesville students have their own devices. He also brought up how adequate wireless Internet access needs to be available at all schools.

“I think that maybe our first step is to try to get the wireless saturation that we need systemwide,” he said. “It might be a good idea to go ahead and get that out of the way, and then start having devices.”

There’s no cost estimate yet. Palmer said he is looking into the overall price, and will present that to the board at a later date.

“I want to make a five-year plan out of this, but it may (take) a little longer based on what that cost is,” Palmer said.

“Cost is always a factor of course, but I will look at what buildings need it the most,” he added, saying Enota Multiple Intelligences Academy and Centennial Arts Academy were the two that were behind the other Gainesville schools in technology.

Moore and Palmer said students are living in an increasingly paperless world. Moore said he could see textbook providers printing fewer materials in the near future.

“As we see more and more students using devices in their everyday world,” Moore said, “we need to work on communicating and getting the parents to understand that that’s where (the students) are. That’s how they’re learning best. That’s what they’re engaged by, and so (we need to) meet them where they are.”