by Peyton Erickson and Caroline Thompson –
Lately, there have been conversations about the addition of Chromebooks into Lincoln Public Schools education system. What is a Chromebook? It’s a laptop that has been uploaded with security precautions, that will allow students to better engage in school-related activities. In simpler words, every student receives their own laptop that they carry back and forth from school to home. Lincoln Public Schools has decided to commence the long-awaited plan for technology to become more involved in our learning environment in the last year. Students in programs such as the Arts and Humanities Program, the IB Program, Zoo School, students in honors classes, and sixth-graders obtained Chromebooks this school year.
The expectation is that by the 2017- 2018 school year, every third through twelfth-grader will receive their own Chromebook.
International Baccalaureate program coordinator, J.P. Caruso commented about why just these groups are receiving the Chromebooks now. “My assumption is that they didn’t want to give them to every high school student at once, because there are a lot of logistics that have to be worked out, so they were going to start small. My understanding is that this year it was all sixth graders and just focus programs. I think the idea of the focus programs is that you have a small contained program. So you have Zoo School, you have Arts and Humanities, so you’re only dealing with a couple of hundred students… Lincoln High IB program, is considered a focus program as well just like Arts and Humanities, Career Center, and Zoo School. And so if they were going to get them (Chromebooks), the feeling was that we should get them as well.”
Having the Chromebooks administered to Lincoln High School students is supposed to help with their learning experience, or at least that was the idea. Now whether or not this is true will be based on how they are going to be used, when they are used, and what limitations/distractions they might provide.
When advisors attended the Chromebook meeting that was held before school started, the administration made it sound like the curriculum was based around the Chromebooks, meaning we would need them all the time. During an interview with freshman Max Pearson, we asked how often he used his Chromebook in class. He states, “ We rarely use our Chromebooks in class. If anything, we use them one period a day. I would like to use them more.”
Senior Rachel Andreini has a different opinion. “I use my Chromebook everyday. I use it for almost all of my classes. The Chromebooks are useful in general.” From these two statements, it seems that the upperclassmen may depend more upon the use of technology to aid in their education experience than the underclassmen, but is this integration of technology actually helping our education?
World Experience teacher Carolynn Goodwin said, “Typing up notes may not be the best way to take notes, but the truth is that even writing out notes – if you haven’t learned how to go about note taking – becomes an act of just copying down what the teacher is writing on the board. So what we want to do is give you tools for meaning-making. A Chromebook is a tool. I think that students can learn more with the Chromebooks, because I could post things online quickly to give them background information, that otherwise would have to be hard copies and be distributed among classes. This morning I could post a comment/link that will help them get background information on what we are reading. Also, when students are gone I can post all the assignments we did in class and that way they can still get things done in an appropriate amount of time.” From this information, the Chromebooks seem to be helping Lincoln High teachers get information to their students in a time efficient manner.
Sophomore Anna Rudasill said, “The Chromebooks are beneficial if someone doesn’t already have a laptop, I have a personal computer already that I would prefer to use…I like that I can access assignments online if I miss school, but it is inconvenient when we can’t access the internet. I don’t think that they help us learn more in class but they help us as an additional resource.”
Depending on who you ask, the Chromebooks seem to have some benefits, but they also come with some problems too.
LPS Chief technology Officer Kirk Langer commented on the issues that Chromebooks pose and how the district wants to go about solving them. I asked Langer if the district planned on having any way for teachers to monitor student’s screens.
“This capability is already in place for teachers via an environment called Hapara. Hapara allows teachers to see what tabs students have open on their computer. Additionally, teachers can close open tabs and push tabs to computers and limit browser content to just the domains of those tabs they push out. The intent is to provide teachers with a classroom management tool to help focus students to contextually appropriate content. This can be a time saver because rather than trying to get everyone on the same page by providing a URL, a teacher can simply push out the site.”
Some teachers aren’t as tech savvy as others, and especially as students, so I asked him if there were classes available for teachers to attend that will teach them how to use the Chromebooks.
“There is a very complete set of professional development offerings available to teachers, and as each school prepares for the arrival of Chromebooks, Computing Services staff will be working directly with them to acquire the skills necessary to guide students in the use of the Chromebooks to meet instructional objectives. For example, Computing Services has devoted a staff member who splits time between Northeast and Southeast the two schools preparing for the rollout of Chromebooks next fall.” According to Langer there are things that have already been set up to help teachers and students use/manage their time more efficiently with the Chromebooks.
Having the Chromebooks as an easily accessible resource for Lincoln High School students may have some advantages/disadvantages, but whether or not the Chromebooks are actually aiding in a student’s education will be based upon the individual student and what they decide to use it for. Everyone learns at a different pace and in different ways. So having the Chromebook may actually benefit students or it may not. That’s for you to decide. What do you think?