Chromebooks For All BHS Students

Nicholas Kallipolites, Staff Writer

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In the past, Chromebooks have only been available on select carts that needed to be rented out and charged within the school. They could only be rented for a few class periods before needing to transfer between teachers. Students would use the devices to complete work, but would more often fiddle and tamper with the laptop. Class lessons were specifically arranged for that day.

Now, the Barnstable High School administration is planning to distribute one Chromebook to every student in order to provide everyone with the technology required for 21st century learning.

“We expect you to come to school prepared to learn. You come with your pencils, your pens, your notebooks, your textbooks, and now your Chromebooks. And you come with your Chromebook fully charged,” said Barnstable Public Schools Director of Technology Ms. Orr.

The Chromebooks are allowed to be taken home after school hours. If a student prefers not to bring their device home, they can purchase a lock from the Coppee Shoppe for $5 (or a refurbished one for $2), and keep it in their locker overnight. Chromebooks will be incorporated into teachers’ lessons in order to bridge the digital divide between students who have technology at home compared to those who don’t. However, even when the devices aren’t at school, they are constantly being monitored. Any searches, websites you visit, documents you work on, are all visible to supervisors. They are not a personal device, said Orr.

“All BHS students have to be aware that these Chromebooks are monitored and filtered 24/7. The product is called GoGuardian. That means I can literally see every keyword you type in to your search, every website you visit, every Youtube video you watch, and everything you do in Google Suite. Now that doesn’t mean I’m going to nor do I have time to. What’s more important is that I teach you professional use of this tool,” said Orr.

Even though students have the right to take their Chromebook, if you forget it at home then you’re out of luck. You will not have access to it and will not be offered a loaner for the day. Ms. Orr hopes this will promote and encourage students to be responsible with their devices and remember to bring them to school every day.

This program has been long in the making. Ever since the 1:1 iPad program that was instituted five years ago at Barnstable Intermediate School, Ms. Orr has been fighting for a similar project at the high school.

“Currently, we have 30 carts that are all different ages and models. This makes them difficult to support and makes it more challenging to access,” said Orr.

With over a hundred teachers in the building according to the BHS website, the thirty Chromebook carts would never be distributed evenly among teachers. In addition, since the Chromebooks were all different models and years, sharing content with peers and colleagues was inconvenient. This new program plans to counter these current problems by providing everyone with an equal opportunity to use technology.

Science teacher Diane Russell appeared optimistic at the prospect of becoming a 1:1 school.
“I am so excited for the Chromebooks!  All students will have access to the same materials and that is wonderful! I think that students and teachers need training with this transition though and hope that there is time for everyone to learn the skills necessary to maximize the full potential of the becoming a 1:1 school,” said Russell.

However, some teachers were more skeptical. Mr. Lance Kuntzman, an AP World History teacher, expressed his concerns.

“I think also that the integrity of student’s work is important, and I think Chromebooks have the potential to lessen that,” said Kuntzman.

On the other hand, students shared different sentiments compared to the teachers. They will be the ones most affected by this massive change.

“I don’t think it’s [the Chromebooks] are useful because you could just use your phone instead. Everything you can do on a Chromebook you could do on your phone,” said sophomore John Ready.

“I believe the school should focus on upgrading the current infrastructure like the Wifi instead of adding new things to the system,” said senior Jackson Britton.

If you are planning on opting out of this program, which the administration strongly discourages, you need to bring your own device to school daily. It is required to have some form of antivirus if not a Chromebook and needs to be fully charged every night. In addition, you will only be able to connect to the guest Wi-Fi network.

Chromebooks will begin to be distributed on February 4th, starting with special education and ELL students. The next week, on February 11th, they will be given to the seniors. Vacation is the following week, so on the 25th juniors will be receiving their Chromebooks. Another week passes and on March 4th, the devices will be given to the sophomores and 8th graders. Finally, on March 11th, the freshman will be given their Chromebooks.

Once your particular grade has been given their Chromebooks, an annual $20 fee needs to be paid via MySchoolBucks in order to have access to the technology. Anyone with a reduced lunch will have their fee waived. That fee includes the warranty, so any damages to the device will automatically be covered with no out-of-pocket expenses. Students keep their assigned Chromebook for three years before trading them in for a new one, said Orr.

Barnstable High School is now joining the 1:1 initiative that has been occurring nationwide. However, even with all the new devices, regulation is necessary.

“I hope you’re still using paper and pencil, writing in notebooks and binders, having real conversation with each other, having constructive dialogues in class, creating art with your hands, expressing yourselves in ways that do not include technology, it’s all about balance!” said Ms. Orr.