Lake Highlands High School will host a meeting for parents this month to discuss their planned distribution of Chromebooks (laptops computers) to every student in grades 9-12. The technology, being made available to students at all RISD high schools and junior highs, is paid for by the 2016 bond and will enable students to access the internet, communicate with teachers and classmates, produce homework and projects and turn in assignments.
Teachers and administrators at LHHS are excited about opportunities the investment, which they call 1-to-1, will bring.
“This will be a 24/7 model,” says Bill Parker, in his first year as LHHS assistant principal. “These students will have possession of the Chromebook days, nights and weekends. We are working to fully integrate the technology into the curriculum. It’s going to be a game changer, especially for students who have been using their cell phones as their primary technology source.”
Parker estimates that number to be 60-70 percent.
“We’ve had some Chromebooks, some furnished by Wild for Cats [the academic booster club] and some by the district,” says Parker, “but they were class sets which had to be shared. Having 1-to-1 will make a big difference.”
Parker’s enthusiasm was evident as he shared examples of students working alone or in groups on research papers from home (or Starbucks or the public library). They might explore jobs for a career-and-technology class or design a marketing product. The possibilities are endless.
“This technology serves as an extension of the classroom,” says Parker. “Gone are the days of teachers passing out paper packets on the first day of class. The syllabus and other info is archived online, but we’ve had online tools for a while. A child that is sick or unable to attend class can still participate, but that only goes as far as the student’s ability to gain access.”
“Many families just don’t have the ability to obtain devices,” says Parker. “It’s just a question of socio-economics.”
Junior high kids received their Chromebooks in January and are working under a “keep-it-at-school” model, says Parker. High schools students will get theirs during the second week of school.
I asked what safeguards would be put in place to make sure crafty kids don’t access objectionable material.
“We know students are going to try – not just to view inappropriate sites but to veer off in class to things like ESPN Sports Center and other distractions. We have tools to keep them on track. We currently have filters on our RISD servers, plus the Chromebooks come with GoGuardian, a tool which allows parents, teachers and administrators to monitor, view and control what students access. Students sign “responsible use guideline agreements” and receive training. We have ongoing training for staff – this is a big step for them, too.”
But won’t kids miss learning from real-life teachers?
“Technology is not replacing teachers,” stresses Parker. “We’re not just setting up 2,800 computers and pushing play. These are additional tools is the hands of teachers to enhance face-to-face instruction. It is simply another tool. We can throw stacks of books at some students and they many not open them. We can give them technology, and we know they will turn them on. Somewhere there’s a sweet spot – beneficial technology to improve the overall learning experience.”
Parents will be asked to purchase insurance at a nominal fee to protect Chromebooks from accidental damage and theft.
The LHHS informational meeting will be held May 25 at 7 p.m. in the LHHS library.