Laptops ready at SHSWhen freshmen arrive at Superior High School next month for their first day of class, they’ll be picking up more than just textbooks for their studies.
By: Emily Kram, Superior Telegram
When freshmen arrive at Superior High School next month for their first day of class, they’ll be picking up more than just textbooks for their studies.
This year’s ninth-grade class will be the first to receive individual laptops as part of the Superior school district’s one-to-one initiative. If everything goes to plan, the district will continue the initiative for subsequent classes until all high school students have their own laptop.
“We’re on the path of technology,” said Janna Stevens, superintendent of the Superior school district. “We’re maybe not as far along on the path, but we’re on that path.”
The district finalized its plans in July when the Superior School Board approved a four-year lease for the student laptops for about $123,000 per year. Stevens said the total cost of the laptop initiative will be about $500,000. It is being funded through the district’s technology budget and Title I money.
Students in two ninth-grade classes served as the pilot group for the one-to-one laptop initiative in April and May.
The roughly 40 students in Mike Weinandt’s science class and Tate Haglund-Pagel’s civics class were assigned their own laptops to use as the pilot group for Superior’s one-to-one laptop initiative. Students received the laptops on April 9 and turned them in near the end of the school year at the conclusion of the pilot program.
The goal of the initiative is to put a laptop into the hands of every incoming freshman. Students will use the laptops for the duration of their high school careers and, upon graduation, will be given the option of purchasing their laptops at a reduced price.
“So far it’s been a really positive thing, I think,” Haglund-Pagel said.
Feedback from the pilot group, from both teachers and student, was largely positive.
Haglund-Pagel said the laptops allowed him more freedom to teach. He’d struggled before with limited computer lab time or student access to computers at home, but the laptops eliminated those obstacles. During the laptop pilot, he could direct his whole class to a website, review PowerPoint presentations or hold online discussions without worry.
“Things that I’d thought to do before we’re actually able to do now,” Haglund-Pagel said.
The district also collected feedback from parents after the pilot program.
“We haven’t gotten any negative feedback from parents,” Mork said. “I’ve had at least one parent in person who’s thanked me and said that it’s really making a difference.
“She sent an email to me and the superintendent shortly after the pilot started saying it’s really helping her son be able to remember to work on his homework and to have a computer accessible to do it at home. She thought that was really a positive thing.”
A special education teacher also told Mork that a pupil who had been “chronically absent” was attending classes more regularly since the laptop pilot started and seemed more engaged.
Since the pilot finished, the district technology team has worked to iron out the details of what students will and will not be able to do with their laptops.
Andy Mork, district technology integration specialist, said students will be able to use their laptops in school and at home. The laptops come with Windows and Microsoft Office installed, and students are not able to download their own software.
While at SHS, students will be able to connect to the high school’s wireless network, which is filtered by software and firewalls. On outside networks, the laptop will not filter content.
“In the orientation for the pilot, the guideline was that the laptop should be used for learning,” Mork said.
Before they receive their laptops, students must sign an agreement that outlines responsibilities and acceptable use. Any intentional damage to the laptops or loss will be charged to the student.
Parents can decline a laptop if they wish, Mork said. Students may also be permitted to use their own personal laptops, although they won’t be able to print documents at school.
For the 2012-13 school year, students will continue to use textbooks alongside their laptops.
“Most of the textbooks now include some electronic resource, whether it’s online or on a CD or DVD,” Mork said.
When planning began for the one-to-one initiative, Stevens had hoped the district would be at the point where students would not need textbooks, but that will not be the case for the first group of freshmen.
“That’s still our vision long-term,” Mork said.
Mork said students in the pilot group made occasional complaints about having “one more thing to carry,” but most comments were positive.
“The teachers have said that the students are asking to use the computers in classes as much as they can, and they’re taking them home and using them,” Mork said.
There is a plan to keep a room or public access point at the high school, such as the cafeteria or the library, open later for students to access the Internet.
“It’s not going to be 24 hours a day, but until 7 or 8 p.m. is possible,” Mork said.
Whether or not the laptops will be used in every class will be up to the teachers. All the ninth-graders will have laptops, and the teachers will use their discretion to determine when to use the laptops in class and when to set them aside.
All teachers with classes made up exclusively of ninth-graders have already received some training for the one-to-one initiative and will continue to be assisted by the district technology coaches during the school year.
Haglund-Pagel said some of his colleagues worry that the kids will “just bonk each other on the head” with the laptops, but the students in his class showed maturity as they used their new computers.
“If we set high expectations for them right out of the gate, they kind of rise to the occasion,” Haglund-Pagel said.