All seventh grade students will bring their own laptops to class next September in the first stage of the one-to-one computer initiative, Head of School Jeanne Huybrechts said.
The new requirement, part of a new six-year Technology Plan, will extend to all grades of the Middle School in September 2014 and the Upper School in September 2015.
“We’re going make some recommendations about what software [students] need,” Huybrechts said. “But it’s bring your own device. You choose. It’s your own computer.”
The Educational Technology Committee, headed by math teacher Jeff Snapp, developed a proposal to bring personal computers into the classroom, after Huybrechts announced the initiative in January 2012.
Director of Studies Elizabeth Resnick emphasized the move to a one-to-one model is an evolutionary step, considering the school’s long-standing commitment to technology with 700 computers on campus, HD projectors in classrooms and as of this year, The Hub, which provides online access to course resources.
The decision to bring laptops into the classroom was a “direct outcome” of a November 2012 Ed Tech survey that showed nearly 90 percent of students have their own computer of which 85 percent are laptops, Resnick said.
Last April, teachers received iPads in a pilot program to see whether the tablets would be effective in a one-to-one program for the students.
Although some teachers, especially at the Middle School, found the iPad useful in their classroom, the Educational Technology Committee ultimately did not choose iPads in their recommendation to Huybrechts.
“The iPad doesn’t have the computing power many classes need in terms of data management,” Resnick said. “Most teachers are creating their documents through the Microsoft suite [on laptops] so the iPad isn’t a no-brainer.”
Snapp agreed that a “strong majority” of teachers preferred laptops when asked.
Huybrechts said that ultimately the technology policy needed to be uniform for the whole school so both students and teachers could get used to one device.
The plan, however, includes having iPad carts available at the Middle School and in the future at the Upper School.
“It was not a misstep to give out the iPad,” Resnick said. “It jump-started thinking – it got teachers really motivated to think about how they bring computing into the class.”
The computers will be used in the classroom in “two primary ways: investigative research and creating documents and multimedia projects.”
“If all the kids are doing is coming to class and typing their notes instead of handwriting their notes, that’s not enough,” Snapp said. “It needs to be better than that.”
“This program that we’re embarking on is really going to be unique to our school,” Snapp said. “We’re going to make it what it needs to be.”