By Stephanie Hernandez McGavin
The Meridian Times
The faculty member from Okemos High School and Chippewa Middle School discussed the progress of the newly implemented personal learning devices at the Okemos School Board meeting on Monday, Feb. 23.
The 2013 Technology/Security/Transportation Bond funded the technology updates that allowed equal access to computers for all students in the two schools. The laptops were distributed to students at the beginning of the 2014-15 spring semester.
Okemos High School technology education teacher Dean Buggia said the laptops created an opportunity to use interactive, online content with the confidence that all students would have access to it. Next year the schools will be implementing an inventry system which will allow faculty to know who is at school on property at any given time. This technology should also help with safety.
He had previously used learning and course management systems for online materials like daily class content, quizzes and tests. But Buggia said he was limited in distributing online material outside the classroom.
Buggia said, “I was not sure which students had a computer to use at home, It would limit what I expected students to do away from class time.”
Now, Buggia said he could upload and distribute all kinds of classroom content for every student.
Okemos High School junior Julian Reddick agreed that the personal learning devices were an important tool “for people that don’t have means to use the Internet or a good, fast laptop.”
But for Reddick, the device has not been of much use, especially because he said his school is using both online and hard-copy technology.
Reddick said, “It’s one or the other thing. I don’t want to carry around textbooks, but I don’t want to carry around laptops either—but now I have to carry around both. It’s kind of a curse … it’s a curse.”
Reddick said the devices arrived at a difficult time—in the middle of the school year.
While Reddick said his classes could not represent the students’ classes as a whole, he said some teachers have not quite adjusted to fully incorporating the devices into their lessons, other than with trivia or games.
Chippewa Middle School Principal Jody Noble said the teachers received their laptops early in the fall before the school year. This allowed teachers to work on the technology, learn how to use different resources and work on behind-the-scenes problems, which proved to be beneficial.
“It took a little bit of time to make sure the printing was ready, and make sure the Wi-Fi filters were working—and there was enough Wi-Fi—for us to get a lot of the kinks out on the teacher devices,” said Noble.
At the school board meeting, faculty addressed various programs the students could use on their laptops such as learning applications, trivia games and convenient resources.
According to Chippewa Middle School special education research room teacher Lori Mazzullo, these additions have been especially valuable for students that learn better in alternative ways.
Previously, the special education department had resources on some laptops that students with learning disabilities could use, but they often did not want to.
Mazzullo said, “We had the ability for them to use a laptop before the devices, but a lot of our students didn’t like having a computer when everyone else was doing the writing.”
While the devices are still relatively new and every day comes with different kinks and questions about the future of the laptops, Noble said the transition has been smooth and the goal of the laptops has remained clear.
Noble said, “It’s a tool—it’s a resource tool, not a teaching tool. Definitely. It’s something that we can utilize but not depend on.”