Assignment: Education – West Salem Technology – Part 1

Every student in grades 6-12 receives a device

Every student at West Salem High School has one of these grey bags. The bags hold a Mac Book Pro given to them by the school district.

“We instituted what we call a one to one initiative in technology where we provided every student a device in grades 6-12,” said Troy Gunderson, superintendent of the West Salem School District.

“It’s really great when you need to take notes,” said Alyssa Leonard, West Salem High School senior. “If you don’t feel like taking paper, it’s good.”

Beginning this Fall, 560 high school students received a Mac Book Pro and 425 West Salem Middle School students got an iPad.

“I think the world of anytime, anywhere, mobile individualized computing… I use this phrase… it’s not really the future, it’s today,” said Gunderson. “If you’re not doing that, you’re living in yesterday. And we have an obligation to provide for our kids.”

So several years ago, the district started looking at what they were spending on smartboards, replacement computers and infrustructure within the building, and decided to pool that money, along with other resources, and invest in new technology at a cost of $375,000 a year over four-years which is 2% of the district’s annual budget.


“I always tell folks when you think about revoluntionizing the way you do work for 2% of your revenues that’s a pretty substantial impact,” said Gunderson.

And to make sure the district stays committed to technology, they financed the computers.

“The important part in the way we set this up is as we have fluctuations and changes in our budget, this isn’t going to be something that’s removeable,” said Gunderson. “And that’s a serious change in the way you look at it. We never enter a budget cycle saying, ‘hey this year should we shut the water off.’ That’s because that’s not optional. Well, neither is this.”

So, this Fall every middle school and high school teacher, like science teacher Wayne Sackett, began incorporating the new technology into their lessons after undergoing training throughout the summer.

“We’ve got a lot of poeple that are just kind of getting their feet wet when some people are full-blown, turn in assignments already and things like that ,” said Sackett. “So, it’s pretty exciting.”

“For us it was the perfect storm of our equipment is worn out. This is a great way to move our adults because we’ll all be in the same boat together,” said Gunderson.

Because as educators, they feel education needs to change with our changing society.

“This is like the printing press. This isn’t just some happen-by-stance kind of thing,” said Gunderson. “Four-hundred years ago, someone came up with a printing press and we had to teach people to read. Now someone came up with this digitized, all over the place, and we have to teach them how to function in that world. So that they can be dynamic, creative, make use of it, be winners with it, and not be victimized by it.”