Ava Seccuro staff writer
With the introduction of the anticipated computer “rollout” system and switch to Schoology, a learning management system, from Jupiter Grades, the Tech Committee held a meeting to address any concerns with either Schoology or the computer rollout system which was implemented on Thursday, Jan. 17.
In order to mitigate any potential stress in the community regarding these changes, the meeting informed community members that only this year’s juniors will receive computers due to the fact that they will be taking SBAC testing online. Devices will have the same security restrictions at home as they will at school to keep students productive. They will also be returned back to the district during the last week of school to be wiped and updated. Technology TOSA teacher Jesse Braun hopes the project will reach school-wide participation.
“Success looks like the vast majority of students with a limited number of opt-outs in the eleventh grade, receiving, taking home devices, bringing charged devices to class and getting the teachers comfortable enough with having students with the devices,” Braun said.
Juniors were supposed to receive laptops before Thanksgiving; however, Braun mentioned that the delay was due to complications with the computer manufacturer.
“There have been a number of hold-ups. The primary hold up that pushed us back three months was the delivery of the computers from Dell, the manufacturer of our computers,” Braun said. “We had put in a purchase order and, for whatever reason, they were unable to fulfill that purchase order in the time frame that they quoted for us.”
History teacher Erica Harper believes that students having laptops will make for a more productive class period.
“I would love to input a lot more technology but I can’t because we have the computers in carts, which are limited. Toward the end of their life, I’ll get a cart of 30 laptops and maybe 20 work,” Harper said. “This is ensuring students are responsible for theirs and I don’t have to worry every day whether I’m going to get a cart or not, what my lessons are going to be like, and it just makes it easier for me as a teacher to actually implement technology in the classroom.”
Parent Joaquin Lippincott, who was present at the meeting, voiced his enthusiasm for the new project, but also expressed his concerns for how monitored the computers will be in classrooms.
“My concerns are making sure, as a parent, that the laptop is actually going to be used for its appropriate purpose and that the folks in the technology space know what they’re doing in terms of whatever restrictions or limitations,” Lippincott said. “I really hope that the laptops in the classroom don’t serve as a distraction and that they actually help learning rather than hurting it.”
The computer rollout system will not be the only change in technology. Starting in fall 2019 at the earliest, most teachers will be making the switch from Jupiter Grades to Schoology.
“Jupiter is just a grading program. They offer Juno and it works with Jupiter relatively well, but it is just a grading program. Schoology is what is called a ‘Learning Management System’ which theoretically, even if you didn’t have a classroom component, you could deliver an entire course simply through Schoology,” Braun said.
There are currently 30 teachers district-wide beta testing Schoology. Braun has received the most feedback concerning difficulties with the not-so-user-friendly interface.
“When you introduce software to a beta group you want to see some negative feedback so you can then refine how you teach other people to use the software,” Braun said. “Our focus in the technology department has been meeting the needs of the teachers and the students who are having a negative experience and trying to provide something better for them.”
Despite the problems that some teachers are having while testing it, Harper knows that Schoology will inevitably be used in classrooms and will lead to the usage of more technology while learning. She views it as a positive change, allowing her students to become more familiar with college-level learning programs.
“[Students should expect] more technology in the classroom. That’s really the biggest thing…I think it’ll be really great to practice learning programs that are similar to college,” Harper said. “It will teach a different type of responsibility. It will give access to different types of software…there’s more project-based things students can do, more diverse things students can do.”
Lippincott also agrees that the more experience that students, particularly his child, get with technology, the better it will be not only for them but also for the entire community.
“I think more exposure to technology is better. I think that every time we have new exposure to technology, we have to learn something new. There’s lessons that we learn because that’s what we’re gonna have to do out in the world,” Lippincott said. “To teach people at different speeds really [is] a significant opportunity to improve the outcomes here in the district and I think that’s great for the community. Everything that we can do to improve our schools is good.”
However, Junior Maiya Masjedi thinks otherwise. As the computers are ostensibly implemented for the purpose of helping students adapt to technology for SBAC testing, Masjedi views them as unnecessary.
“I think that right now, the computers are hurting the community, especially students. Since there are few teachers that are integrating the technology efficiently, I think that the computers are unnecessary,” Masjedi said. “I think that if students and staff were more prepared for the transition of the use of technology, then I would say that computers are beneficial to the Beverly community.”