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Ambitious school technology plans run up against budget deficits

All 1,000 students at Oak-Land Junior High in Lake Elmo, Minn., have laptop computers supplied by the Stillwater School District that they take to every class and can take home every night. Now, with uncertainty over how the state budget deficit will hit its finances, the district must decide whether to expand the program, curtail it, or continue it largely intact, reports the Minneapolis Star Tribune. No matter what district leaders decide this year, the march of technology into classrooms and its use in teaching will continue in Stillwater and everywhere, said Aaron Doering, assistant professor of learning technologies at the University of Minnesota. He might be right. The Edina School District is in the early stages of formulating a plan that could put laptops in the hands of all its students from eighth grade on up. The district is piloting a plan that gives some middle school students access to a laptop in every class, but keeps the laptops at school. "I don’t know how we can go back," said Stillwater Superintendent Keith Ryskoski. "We should continue to go ahead and make more technology available to our students." But school boards, which set policy, are sometimes less enamored of spending more money on computers. "I’m not willing to give up other areas" in order to enhance or expand the laptop program, said George Hoeppner, chairman of the Stillwater board. Costs for continuing and expanding the program range from $300,000 to $1.2 million annually…

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