Chromebooks: Proof Positive

Trevor Fox, Staff Reporter

A look at the “Tech Timeline” below will show that MHS has been on a continuous path of utilizing technology to make learning as modern and effective as possible. One of the most recent technology developments at MHS has been the 1:1 Initiative that began two years ago.

The 1:1 Initiative was a vision set forth by the MHS board and administrators to provide one Chromebook for each student to use inside and outside the classroom.

Whenever a new venture is in the beginning stages, there are critics and cheerleaders. Chromebooks have had their fair share of critics, so allow me to be on the varsity cheer squad.

The 1:1 Initiative was needed at MHS, and five full terms with Chromebooks in the hands of students are enough to show that.

“It gives us more opportunity to go on the Internet and use our resources,” said Ben Irwin, senior, who is one of many students with a positive reaction to the device.

Before Chromebooks, students had two choices for using computers during class. Choice 1: Go to the library or one of the computer labs to work on a desktop computer.

Choice 2: Hope that the teacher will have one of the mobile carts that holds semi-functioning laptop devices. At Fremont School District 79 they are called C.O.W.’s — Computers on Wheels — and they were not working out well here at MHS.

So, if students were in the position where they had a laptop cart available, they then had to hunt for the one that actually had a charged battery, wasn’t missing any critical keys, such as enter, space, shift, or any letters that, if missing, would keep that student from being able to spell out “The quick brown fox jumps over the lazy dog.”

But, as an infomercial voice-over would announce, “But wait! There’s more!”

See, these carts sometimes had Chromebooks like the ones MHS students have today, but many times they had machines that would take 85 of the 90 minutes in class to turn on and load, and that would crash if too many people were on them.

There laid the MHS technological dilemma. A need for laptops paired with a lack thereof sparked the process of giving students Chromebooks.

It began with students testing out the new devices, which the website says, “are a new type of computer designed to help you get things done faster and easier. They run Chrome OS, an operating system that has multiple layers of security, cloud storage, and the most popular Google products built-in.”

“Chromebooks boot up in less than ten seconds and don’t slow down,” the site adds.Chromebooks are Bad

Having the capability to flip open a Chromebook and type or search is a convenience that MHS faculty and students shouldn’t take for granted. Each student has the same access to various online resources, leaving them no excuses to not do their work.

“What I’m finding is that students are apt to write more in greater detail because it’s easier to write out answers as opposed to write it out longhand,” said Science Teacher Chris Michalides.

But how did MHS know that this would work?

Well, like I said, they tested it. As Michalides, or any science teacher, might say, a system must be tested before we can know if it works. That is what MHS did, and that is why Chromebooks are firing out of the gate strong.

In the 2013-2014 school year, certain pilot students were given a Chromebook like those students have now. When the upperclassmen look back at that transition process, the old methods, and the new advancements, they look back with awe.

“It’s nice to be able to just have a computer instead of a lot of papers,” said Shannon Stanley, senior.

Stanley lived during the horrid past of mobile carts and slow computers, and she has survived to tell the story. To her, Chromebooks were well worth it, and Dr. Anthony Kroll, principal, agrees.

“I think when students are able to get immediate feedback in writing from their teachers on specific parts of what their work is, that creates that feedback loop, and it’s very important,” Kroll said. “That is the critical piece of the learning process.”

The fact that technology and laptops allow enhanced learning and teacher-student interaction has been known for over a decade. It’s good that MHS finally caught on.
Studies by Wayne State University and the University of Memphis from 1999 and 2000 showed that students with laptops had improved writing skills, a higher interest in school, improved self-confidence and enhanced computer skills.

In the 2015-2016 school year, five seconds in a public school will prove that students have enhanced computer skills, but not all schools realize the significant role that laptops play shaping better students. MHS does.

“Chromebooks right now are the tools we’re using because they’re affordable, they’re easy, we can repair them, they do what we want them to do,” said Kroll.

The way MHS repairs many of its Chromebook mishaps is through Tech Support Internship (TSI), which is a class where students learn basic computer maintenance in order to then fix minor Chromebook issues.

TSI is just one of the many opportunities that the 1:1 Initiative has given students. Another is the ability for the school to have improved communication. When major events are developing, staff and students can find out information through email.

This year, Homecoming Court voting, information regarding Yearbook Picture Day, and other major events were relayed through email to ensure that each student had the information sent straight to their school Gmail account.

That is my cheer. It’s a long one, and definitely a lot longer than the “M-U-S-T-A-N-G-S! Go Mustangs! Giddy Up!” that was heard on the sidelines at MHS football games this season.

There will always be critics. There will be people who claim that Chromebooks are too distracting or don’t have a long enough battery life. To these critics I say, wait and be patient. Ask an upperclassman, teacher or alumnus, and he or she will confirm that the technology we have now at MHS is exactly what we need. That, however, doesn’t mean that down the road we could have something brand new.

“In five years, something completely different can come that’s even better for our students and our staff,” said Kroll. “We might have to shift. That’s just the way technology works.”

Maybe when that day comes, somebody will write an opinion like this one saying that it was foolish that the Classes of 2015 through 2019 praised such old devices.

However, that doesn’t mean that what MHS has currently is bad. In fact, the technology that students use is just what we need, and it allows students and faculty to enhance the learning process like never before.