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May 20, 2011

One year in: One-to-One

After one year with laptops, feelings about the program are mixed

Students work on their laptops for a Social Studies teacher Jason Adkison uses a projector to lecture his class while stuents collaborative project in Social Studies teacher take notes on laptops. Other interactive technology used in SAS include Blackboard and Jason Adkison’s class.Photo by Leo De Velez There’s an ongoing debate between SAS students on which is better: Mac or PC. Photo by Leo De Velez Powerschool. Photo by Leo De Velez

1:1 In an Eye survey about one-to-one’s first year, teachers were given a chance to make comments about the change. All comments were anonymous. These are a few.

“I think technology can give a learner control over what they learn and I love it!” “If you’re asking me if technology has helped improve my relationship with students, I would say no. The personal touch is missing.”

“With wireless connections we are able to work in the class and other locations on campus. This is a lot better than working out of å computer lab.”

“We are a school; we are not an internet cafe.”

By Becky Kreutter At the beginning of the 2010-2011 school year, the high school inaugurated its one-to-one laptop program. According to the Student Handbook, students in grades nine to 12 are required to “own a laptop as a necessary tool for our academic program” (page 42). “We want students to have access anytime, anywhere to information and to learning that is going on around the world,” high school Principal Dr. Timothy Stuart said. Access to more research, though not all credible

said. Another teacher felt that the time and effort spent researching ways to use laptops in class was not justifiable if the research will not improve the class. “Finding something requiring the use of a laptop takes considerable time and research and is not always a better way to teach many of the topics I need to teach in my field.” Deputy Principal Lauren Mehrbach said the administration realizes that the laptop is simply a tool for learning. “We never expected that every class would be using computers every day. That’s not our goal and that’s not realistic,” Mehrbach said. “That would almost be detrimental, trying to force teachers to use something like that when it’s not an appropriate tool.”

Dr. Stuart said that when he was in school, research meant combing through books in a library and compiling note cards, tasks which didn’t give him as much breadth as students have today. “You have access to thousands and thousands of A variety of brands leads to a variety of problems papers and research that’s been written on that particular topic, so it’s not just three One of the early challenges of books,” Dr. Stuart said. “That’s the program was the mixed platform, power.” mixed brand program SAS uses. This While having such a range means that students not only work off of information gives students of two platforms, Windows and Mac, more options in their research, but also own a variety of brands that they must learn to separate the use Windows. good resources from the bad While the mixed platform model a skill not as necessary when was chosen to allow students to use students pulled research from the type of computer they felt more published books. comfortable with, teachers encounStudents have not been the tered problems with getting projects only beneficiaries of the depth to run smoothly, particularly if teachof resources on the Internet. ers themselves weren’t used to the Teachers have been able to innew technology. Many teachers had corporate information from the to scrap projects because of technoweb into their courses. logical glitches. Dr. Timothy Stuart Science Department Chair “Because it is the first year, teachDennis Steigerwald said that having laptops in class has ers have different levels of proficiency when it comes to differentiated his teaching and made it more student- computer use... And that’s okay,” Dr. Stuart said. centered. Steigerwald said he is able to use not only One teacher who responded to the survey said, traditional lectures in class, but also videos, visuals and “Good teachers are going to teach well, bad teachers interactive content from the web. are going to teach badly, in spite of the technology.” Steigerwald is not the only teacher to see an increase Teachers will have to adapt to teaching with comin variety thanks to laptops. One teacher who responded puters, though Steigerwald said that the administration to The Eye’s One-to-One survey commented that com- acknowledges different teaching styles and encourages puters gave teachers the opportunity to get instant feed- the use of technology without mandating it. back from students as well as students to get feedback In the past all teachers had to use Lenovo laptops from each other. The teacher mentioned blogs, Wikis, which they may or may not have been familiar with. For social bookmarking, and YouTube as just some of the next year, teachers were allowed to switch to Macs if programs available to students before adding, “I think they preferred. As a result, about 70 percent of teachers technology can give a learner control over what they next year will use Macs in class. learn and I love it!” HS Technology Coordinator, Jay Atwood, said that while the computer itself doesn’t change teaching, the But have learning and teaching really changed? more comfortable teachers are with their tools, the more Not all students have felt the effects of differenti- they can innovate. If teachers know how to make a podated learning. Junior Dominique Pratt, who moved cast or blog, they can incorporate that into their teachfrom a paperless school in Bombay, said there is noth- ing. ing she does with her laptop in class that she couldn’t do Training teachers in technology without one. Pratt uses her laptop mainly to take notes during class which she said has helped her stay more For teachers who don’t know how to make a podorganized. cast or blog, training is available. Training for teachers “You can always take notes on a piece of paper,” so far has been teacher-motivated, not top down from Pratt added. the administration. Senior Barbara Hoffer does just that. Atwood, said that teachers who wanted to learn how “For most classes, laptops are optional, but I just to incorporate technology into the classroom had three prefer to use paper and pen to take my notes. It’s just options this year. easier,” Hoffer said. Teachers looking to broaden their skill set could atSome teachers agree that not much has changed tend once-a-month, after-school sessions or they could with the addition of laptops. attend shorter sessions during the day. But Atwood said “A lap top is just a tool, no more and no less. I don’t the majority of training that the IT office does is, what think it has changed my teaching or how I do things in he labels “just-in-time training.” any way,” one teacher respondent to The Eye survey Teachers who wanted to do a specific project with

It is our absolute responsibility to equip our students to be successful and competitive in the 21st century and using technology is part of that.

technology came to the IT office with the project when they needed it. Atwood said the office has helped teachers use Skype, iMovie, QuestionPress and other applications in their classrooms. Temptations in Facebook, YouTube, Skype, more Perhaps the biggest change teachers will have to make will be in classroom management, in particular making sure students don’t become too distracted by Internet focus-zappers like Skype and Facebook. Atwood, who also has a background as a psychology teacher, said, “Students have this false idea that they can multitask and pay attention to what’s happening on Facebook as well as what’s going on in class, and it just doesn’t work.” While Pratt agrees that students need to have selfcontrol in class to stay off Facebook, she said she believes some blame for heavy Facebook work falls on teachers. Pratt said teachers could better control Facebook by walking around in the back of the class and enforcing the screens-down approach. Steigerwald found another way to see if students were using Facebook in class. “Watch their eyes,” Steigerwald said. “They have not only a different expression, but also they are looking at a different place on the screen if they’re typing and writing.” While he admits that he finds kids on Facebook all the time, Steigerwald said that in the biology program the laptop is integral to the assignments which keeps kids on task. Yet Eye survey results show students are more distracted by Facebook than teachers think. According to the Eye survey whose results are shown in SAS in Numbers, most teachers thought only a small minority of students used Facebook during class. However, the survey showed that almost two-thirds of students used Facebook during class. Looking to the future Atwood said the responsibility to focus in class rests with the students. Atwood said teachers cannot be expected to police students’ screens so students must learn to manage their own time wisely. “Facebook is still going to be there when you are done with class,” Atwood said. Multi-platform program problems are bound to arise on a campus as large as SAS, but Atwood said he expects things to improve over the next few years as the program is perfected. “We’re all kind of guinea pigs right now,” Atwood said. “We can’t expect things to change overnight.” One teacher wrote, “To label the program as a failure or success at this point would be short sighted. We need to be patient and grow with this amazing opportunity.” Mehrbach agreed with this view. “This year was more about letting teachers try it out, see what works, what succeeds and what fails,” she said. Dr. Stuart shares Mehrbach’s and Atwood’s longterm views and said that, as the program is perfected, both teaching and learning will change for the better. “It is our absolute responsibility to equip our students to be successful and competitive in the 21st century and using technology is part of that,” Dr. Stuart said. “We’ve got to stop calling it the ‘one-to-one initiative’...Technology is here to stay, it is not going away.”

May 20, 2011  
May 20, 2011  

The Eye volume 30, number 6