NORMAN — Students typically don't get excited when receiving their textbooks at school. Getting their netbooks at school, well, that's a different story.
On Thursday and Friday, every seventh- and eighth-grade student at Longfellow Middle School was given a netbook — a small, basic laptop computer, to use for the school year.
"This is pretty cool, said Longfellow eighth-grader Kyle Story. "We have a computer to use wherever we go."
Longfellow Principal Darien Moore said her school recently received 500 laptops for seventh- and eighth-grade students and their teachers. The school won a $968,000 1.1 Digital Classroom grant from federal stimulus funds that were administered by the state Education Department.
Moore said that to be eligible, a school had to have eighth-grade students and at least 50 percent of all students qualifying for free or reduced lunch.
Longfellow is the only Norman school to fit those criteria, but several staff members spent a sizable part of their Christmas break together last year to write the lengthy grant application.
Carolyn Yates, one of two Longfellow technology specialists, said the funds paid for the netbooks and for rewiring the school buildings for wireless Internet.
"We are all excited about this," Yates said. "These will help teach technology skills and also with working on raising vocabulary and research skills."
Eighth-graders received their netbooks on Thursday and seventh-grade students got theirs on Friday. A class at a time was brought to the school library throughout those days, where students received final instructions and then checked out the school district-owned computers as they would a library book.
Erika Hernet, an eighth-grade teacher of American history, said her students had been anticipating checkout day since the start of school.
"They have been so jazzed for this, and they're so funny," Hernet said as her students checked out the laptops. "This is really going to help students participate in more real-life technology, which will allow them to be more like the general population around us."
Eighth-grader Brittany Nicks said the netbooks will be especially helpful in language arts and social studies classes, and for looking up information for major projects.
Kyle McDaniel, also in eighth grade, didn't know about the lengthy process that went into the school acquiring the computers, or of the qualifying criteria; he's just grateful that he and his classmates have them.
"No other school will give you a computer," McDaniel said with his in hand. "I'm glad this school gives us enough trust to use them, and this will help us get more work done."
Blue Ribbon school
Friday became an even bigger day at Longfellow when students, teachers and staff learned their school was named a 2010 National Blue Ribbon School, one of only five in Oklahoma. The schools will be recognized in Washington in November.
"It's wonderful; it's a reflection of how hard our teachers and how hard our students try," Moore said. "I cannot wait to hang our banner here when we come back from D.C."