Now that Plymouth High School has a netbook in the hand of each student, administrators expect them to be increasingly engaged in their education.
“The potential is now there to engage each student at his or her own level,” said Superintendent Clark Reinke.
The one-to-one computer initiative launched a year ago with sophomore and juniors receiving netbooks as part of a Board of Education-led initiative to get more technology into schools.
At the beginning of this school year, the netbooks were returned the students, now juniors and seniors, and distributed to freshmen and sophomores, so now all four grades have the computers.
The move is saving the school money as teachers turn to online resources rather than traditional printed textbooks, which are expensive and quickly outdated. It also allowed the school to eliminate three computer labs, which carried costly repairs and meant classes had to wait for their turn to do research.
The netbooks, by comparison, required very few repairs last year, according to Mike Briggs, computer director. All of the machines were returned in working order, he said.
Principal Dan Mella said he was pleasantly surprised by how well students took care of the netbooks. “They definitely value them, more than I understood they would,” he said.
He also has been amazed – as were the parents who attended Back-to-School Night – at how teachers have quickly adapted their curriculums to take advantage of the technology.
Most high school teachers have set up wikis, interactive web sites that deliver facilitated curriculum. A teacher will identify learning targets for each lesson on the wiki, then identify related readings, activities, interactive web pages and other learning experiences. Students work through the items at their own paces, with the teacher facilitating the learning as needed.
For example, one Spanish wiki lesson begins with students watching video of two people speaking, before the students practice speaking in class with the teacher. Then they return to the wiki, where there are links to a Spanish program from the BBC and another site that allows them to record themselves speaking. The teacher can review the recordings outside of class, rather than stop class to listen to each student individually. This allows the teacher to introduce a topic, guide students through learning experiences and gather assessment material, all within one 45-minute class period.
In addition to being more efficient, netbooks and wikis allow students to move at their own paces, and also to work at times that are most convenient for them.
“The whole focus is on learning, rather than on teaching them and ranking them,” Mr. Mella said.
Click here for a slide show about the netbooks presented at the Sept. 20 Board of Education meeting.