By Lee Johnson
Logan High School has received 1,600 MacBooks in a pilot program to integrate computers into its classes.
The school began handing out the laptops last month. Every student is expected to receive one — and some teachers have already begun to use the computers in their classrooms, giving students assignments to research, write papers and send documents to their teachers.
“I’m new to the school this year,” said Tracy Cummins, a language arts teacher. “I come from a place where all of our students had either a desktop or access to a laptop there at school. So, my curriculum has always included computers.”
Because Cummins is used to computers in there classes, she already has set guidelines her students have to follow.
“I have a very strict supervision and time limits,” Cummins said. “They have three minutes to do this particular thing. I walk around the room as much as I can. The desks are setup so if I’m on this side of the room or that side of the room, I can see what is on their computers, which they don’t like. I have had two that I’ve had to confiscate because they chose to be doing Skype during my class.”
David Henderson, a creative writing and English teacher, has found the computers to be helpful in finding out which students are distracted.
“What I find amusing is it’s putting their mind on a computer screen,” Henderson said. “I know when they’re daydreaming, because they’re off playing video games. It actually helps keep them focused on what they need to be doing, because it’s easy to tell when they’re not on task.”
Henderson has found that smaller devices, like phones or iPods, are more distracting than the computers.
When it comes to class work Henderson has noticed some difference in the students’ behavior.
“It’s incredibly hard sometimes to get a student to break out a notebook and a pencil,” Henderson said. “You never have a problem with them getting out a computer.”
Henderson said the impact of the computers likely wouldn’t be know this year.
“Next year is going to be the year to watch to see if it’s really going to be successful or not,” he said. “By then we’ll have our basic experiences down and know what we can do with these things.”
Mary Morgan, a teacher in the Special Education department, has noticed how her students have been affected by the new computers.
“It does give them more opportunity to have access right there,” Morgan said. “If they want to write a story or check their grades without having to go onto another computer or wait for somebody to be done. It’s more convenient and I’ve seen more willingness to do work because they can get their materials right from it.”
Morgan has also noticed that the computers have made it easier for the students as well as for herself.
“In my support class I have them fill out a tracker form, tell me their grades, assignments and everything,” Morgan said. “It’s just so much paper. So now I’m doing a Google Doc and it’s easier for them to just to do it on the computer and then send it right to me so I have it right then.”
Morgan is not the only one noticing a difference with the Special Education students.
“I have several of Mary’s students in my classes,” Cummins said. “They are finding it’s easier for them to remain organized.”
Cummins has also had several years of experience working with special education students.”
The computers, Cummins said, are “another tool for them. They are learning those coping skills so that they can find their avenues of success. Students across the board in our general education classes, they still have to learn about tools and the value of tools where our SPED kids recognize the value of tools right away because they have always needed them.”
To help pay for the computers, the Governor’s Office of Economic Development is giving $1.2 million to match the expected expenditures for Logan City School District.