Why Laptops for Students?

Written by Administrator
 | Friday, 07 March 2014 17:48

As Town Meeting approaches, there has been some discussion of the district’s intent to issue Apple MacBook Air laptop computers to our secondary students for their use on a 24/7 basis beginning with the 2014-2015 school year.

The district’s vision is based on where we have been, where we are at present and where we intend to go in the future. Several committees have contributed to the vision: the Visioning Committee for the middle and high school building project, the Strategic Planning Committee and the district Technology Committee.  Across the country, districts are implementing 1:1 educational technology, meaning a device for every student and teacher.  But this isn’t about the device at all; it’s about changing how we teach and how students learn with tools that offer engaging, customized learning, a vast and flexible supply of material, a range of ways students can express what they’ve learned and access to people and resources around the globe.

Let’s start with the past. It wasn’t too long ago that there were virtually no wireless networks in our four school buildings. Teachers had desktop Apple computers anchored to their desks.  Student use of technology was negligible from preschool to high school with only two desktops per classroom and minimal computer lab capacity in each building. Students were still handwriting stacks of notecards for their research papers, often citing Internet sources by hand-writing them on cards and then having to type them back in for their final papers. No one was Skyping with other schools or countries, or even with their own classmates on group projects.

In addition, there was virtually no training of teachers in the implementation of technology to support the curriculum. In fact, teacher training expenditures were one of the lowest in the entire state.

Today, we have complete wireless coverage in our two elementary schools. All teachers in our district are issued a wireless MacBook Air for use 24/7. Students and teachers are utilizing iPads and laptops on carts, mostly funded by grants, some district money and generous grants from the Duxbury Education Foundation. Students are now working with others around the world, learning culture, geography and social skills.  Teachers customize lessons to different levels of ability. Class materials and assignments are often posted online and report cards and school-to-home communications are completely paperless.

The secondary schools are another story. Because of the condition of the existing buildings, only a limited wireless environment exists.  Desktop labs and laptop carts are utilized on a limited basis but the sheer demand overwhelms the supply of hardware and connectivity.

These limitations worked for a great 20th Century education. The problem is that we are preparing students for college, careers and life in the real world, the digitally sophisticated 21st Century. Our teachers have been doing their best to move students forward, utilizing technology as much as our limitations allow. Some are creating eBooks and others are paperless at the middle school.  Many classes utilize online textbooks and blog posts, and this spring, we will pilot the new PARCC standardized test online.

This brings us to what we envision for the future of our students. Students will be working in partnership with our teachers and each other. Because information is readily available to students with ubiquitous technology, teachers are no longer the “Sage on the Stage.” They are the facilitators of student learning, creating and problem solving and directors of collaborative student projects.

With a range of learning styles, students need customized teaching and tools to show what they have learned through a variety of modalities. Some will lecture, some will create a movie; others will build simulations, all leading to mastery of skills and knowledge. In essence, school can no longer afford to be the “same old, same old.”

Let’s take the new middle and high school. While in the concept stage, there were animated discussions about what type of education the new building should support.

The final outcome of that visioning committee was to design a school that would accommodate educational technology as it continually evolves in the 21st Century with flexible spaces for collaboration for middle and high school students and staff. Each classroom is equipped with an interactive projector, and whiteboard, enhanced sound system, and a wireless port with the latest wireless protocol to accommodate the use of individual devices in a 1:1 environment. . We have contracted to triple the Internet pipeline to the schools and town.

Should we move into our 21st Century building with the 20th Century learning tools? If we don’t utilize all that current and future technology have to offer, then we are hamstringing our students for college and the world of work.

The District has considered the effectiveness of different technology platforms and the pros and cons of school-provided machines versus family-provided. The technology department worked with pc and Apple based laptops and tablets. It was determined that laptops are the preferred option because of the keyboard, portability and software.

We then focused on choosing a platform, cost, ease of use, battery life, durability and repairs. After much consideration, the Apple laptop was selected.  DPS has successfully used Apples for many years and Apple machines are used widely in education, have a longer battery life, include the software we want, and have fewer virus and software integration issues. As for cost, the $1,000 per device, referenced in a Clipper opinion piece, includes an extended three-year warranty and a significant amount of professional development from the company.

Thank you for your continued support of Duxbury Public Schools.