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Laptops in the classroom help middle-schoolers learn

A classroom full of laptops has helped students learn at one Raleigh middle school, teachers say.

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RALEIGH, N.C. — Laptops in the hands of middle-schoolers.

Teachers and students say it has made a big difference in learning at Centennial Campus Middle School in Raleigh.

Cary-based SAS, the world's largest privately held software company, gave the school more than 200 laptops, as well as software, last year.

Eighth-grade teacher Jessica Nelson said the laptops and wireless Internet access in her classroom allow her to go beyond the normal language-arts curriculum.

"I'm able to teach the standard course of study, but I'm able to enrich it with real-world examples," Nelson said.

When teaching about Edgar Allen Poe, Nelson asks her students if they know what cholera is. Before hearing from the teacher, the students can hop on the Internet and see if they can figure it out for themselves.

Students talked about the benefits of the laptops in other subjects as well.

"In math, we have this program that lets us draw sketches on the Internet, and they're more accurate than if the teacher was drawing them or if we drew them," student Nonye Onokalah said.

Teachers said the laptops have even helped students get more of their assignments done.

"Put a computer in front of them and give them the option of typing that paper, and that stress, anxiety goes out the window," Nelson said. "So I have a higher turn-in rate for a lot of my term papers."

The students store their laptops in their classrooms at the end of the school day, but the Internet keeps them connected to school – via teachers' Web sites – even at home.

"They have my actual notes, how they were given in class, to make sure they didn't miss something as they were copying. ... They can go home and print it," Nelson said.

Centennial officials believe that students' computer competency test scores have risen as a result. During the first full year of having laptops in the classroom, the percentage of students with passing scores rose from around 70 to 92.5 percent.

Students said their parents appreciate the extra boost their children have been given.

"My parents are happy about that, because in the world around us, technology is the big thing," student Prakhar Naithan said. "And if you don't know about technology, then you can't really get around."