A laptop in each Ecker Hill student’s hands | ParkRecord.com

A laptop in each Ecker Hill student’s hands

Douglas Greenwood, Park Record

Each student in sixth and seventh grade at Ecker Hill Middle School received his or her own Apple Macbook Monday. "It’s theirs, 24-7 for the whole school year," Principal Terri Evans said.

"It’s going to change the way we teach, the way we think," technology instructional coach Mike Kisow said. High access, or computer availability for the students, has evolved throughout recent years.

"Ten years ago, high access was a computer in the classroom," Kisow said. "Now every student has their own." Two years ago, fifth grade-students took part in a technology program that paired two students together to share a computer at school. A laptop for every student is the next step in that program, he said.

Each computer package; consisting of the computer, software and bag, costs about $1,500. To avoid raising the capital tax levy, administrators earmarked portions of capital budget for three years in preparation for the laptop rollout. To successfully prepare for the distribution, all teachers at Ecker Hill and Treasure Mountain middle schools received laptops last year. The high access technology plan cost about $1.3 million overall, according to Superintendent Ray Timothy.

Before laptops were distributed, each parent watched a 13-minute introduction video and signed the user agreement. The video was presented at an assembly for parents and students during registration. Following the video, Mike Kisow and Sam Thompson answered any additional questions from parents to prepare for the Aug 30 rollout.

Students are expected to bring only their laptops to class every day. Backpacks will remain in lockers during school and chargers are to be left at home. They are responsible to take good care of the equipment throughout the year. At the end of the year, laptops are returned for the summer and the same computer will be returned to the student each school year for the next three years.

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Classroom content will be digitally focused this year. Printing assignments will be discouraged, as all assignments will be distributed and collected through digital drop boxes accessible on the laptops. Only a few student-access printers are available in the school.

"We no longer have computer labs anymore," Kisow said. "We were able to reclaim those instructional spaces that used to be computer labs, and now there’s going to be classrooms."

While some reclaimed rooms will be filled with students, others have been converted into tech support stations. Raul Yubeta and Tricia Jackson will be in charge of diagnosing problems and troubleshooting at the support stations in the school.

Administrators will focus on student Internet safety throughout the year by regularly teaching classes about the topic. Summit County Sheriff’s Deputies will teach a parent-specific Internet safety class in October.

While at school, the district filter will limit access to social networking sites such as Facebook and Myspace, external personal email and video-streaming sites such as Youtube and Hulu. Regardless of how or where students are accessing the Internet, the district filter will still apply and limit student web access.

Filters provide some protection and are good precautions, but they don’t block absolutely everything, Kisow said. "Parental supervision is key to keeping your child safe online," he said.

Technology instructional coaches will be organizing regular 20-minute training classes throughout the year to help students become familiar with their computers, Kisow added.

Each student whose parent attended the laptop assembly and signed the user agreement during registration received his or her 13-inch Macbook Aug 30. Administrators have spent the first week of school showing the introduction video to parents who were unable to view it at registration.

The Monday bell schedule was adjusted to allow teachers to distribute the 700 Macbooks among students at the end of class. Administrators wanted to reduce any distractions created by the presence of a laptop waiting to be used.

Teachers gathered with their homeroom classes where students watched a video with similar instructions to those their parents received. At the conclusion of the video, teachers passed out the laptops and protective cases. Each student opened his or her new laptop and logged on to ensure it worked properly.

Next year, all students at Treasure Mountain International School will also receive laptops. Administrators plan to extend high access into the high school within two years, Kisow said.