Students can now turn their educational experience into a 21st Century adventure without leaving their desks thanks to North Carolina's 1:1 Laptop Initiative. The program enables middle and high school students to use technology and information skills to foster critical thinking, research and information fluency and communication. By the end of the 2009-2010 school year schools in 43 of the state's 115 school systems had adopted the 1:1 Laptop program.

In Union County, sixth grade students and teachers at Cuthbertson Middle School were issued 3,500 laptops during the 2010-2011 school year as part of the initiative. Students at this school use their laptops to research in class assignments, view teacher power points, and type class notes.

"We piloted the 1:1 Laptop Initiative this year in Union County and have seen excellent results," said Dr. John Jones, the 2008-2009 Wachovia Principal of the Year for Union County Public Schools. "The laptops offer a form of blended instruction that fosters innovation in the classroom."

Students and faculty at Edgecombe Early College High School also have adopted the 1:1 program and use the laptops ever day to enhance their education. A typical assignment for a 1:1 Laptop student at Edgecombe Early College involves using Google Earth to conduct a virtual tour of the locations in Elie Wiesel's Holocaust memoir "Night." Teachers and administrators also use their laptops regularly to count attendance forms and lunch vouchers using Google Talk.

"Our students have their own web pages and digital portfolios that provide hands-on technology experience in the classroom," said Sherita Cobb, Edgecombe Early College High School's principal. "Kids are technology today and this program gives students a tool they enjoy using, while also incorporating education."

Other school districts are hoping to receive funding from the state to start the laptop initiative in their schools. Gov. Bev Perdue recommended in June that the Wilkes County schools receive a $100,000 grant from the Appalachian Regional Commission to purchase 255 laptop computers to be distributed to ninth-graders. The school system's goal is to provide a portable computer device to every student in grades 4-12. The Appalachian Regional Commission, which is a federal-state partnership, has reviewed the laptop project proposal, and will make its final decision on the project before school starts.

The 1:1 Laptop Initiative is not just about increasing learning opportunities and boosting student achievement. School leaders are seeing other types of positive results too. "After analyzing preliminary data we have seen an increase in the levels of time-on-task and student engagement, while discipline referrals have decreased," said Dr. Jones. "Students really seem to like the 1:1 initiative and it seems to be working."

This unique program, which began in Michigan in 2002, has drawn national attention. To date, Alabama, Michigan, New Jersey, and New York are just a few school districts that have already implemented the 1:1 Laptop Initiative.