Liberty High School students undergoing digital transformation

LIBERTY, Mo. - We often refer to high school as a time of transformation for students. In the Liberty Public Schools, however, it's the schools themselves that are being transformed.

They are calling it a digital transformation.

Martin Jacobs is the principal of Liberty North High, and he knows the idea sounds funny at first.

"Giving young students, everyone, a laptop computer can have a lot of people skeptics," he admitted.

But that's exactly what they are doing. Whereas, many people might think of yet another screen as just another distraction for students, both Liberty high schools are planning to use them to increase students learning power.

Right now, only about 200 students are participating in the pilot program, using the laptops in just a few classes. It's a work in progress.

"We were like 'Oh, cool we have laptops' and stuff and then we realized what we could and couldn't do and we were like 'OK, maybe this will actually help me get my grades," Liberty North sophomore Billy England said.

And that is the purpose of the technology upgrade -- to get students thinking and doing more independently.

Sure there are still plenty of traditional classrooms where students read words written in actual books, but England says she finds the laptops more entertaining and interactive.

They anticipate nothing less than the eventual flipping of every classroom. In a flipped classroom, what is now considered homework is done in class with more teacher supervision. Lectures and other information are gathered on the computer to prepare for the next day's work.

J D Biggs is a parent of two students at Liberty North.

"What that means for me as a parent is, my kid's going to be learning a lot at home and then going back to school interacting more one on one with their instructor, rather than learning in a class in a lecture environment."

Principal Jacobs says most of the parents at least have an open mind about the concept. While it's out front, it's not right on the cutting edge. It's been tried in other places with some success.

"We've kind of been force-feeding for a long, long time with things. Now they can do some thinking on their own and reflecting on things a little more independently," he said.

And what about the local results? Billy England's class is referred to as a "blend" with worksheets, teacher interaction and computer research intertwined.

"My grade in this class is actually higher than it was at the beginning of the year. I was at a C now I'm hitting about a B+, so I'm very happy with it," he said.

The Liberty Public Schools said they expect to be able to give every student in grades nine through 12 a laptop by fall of this year.

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