Mountain View High School aims to level the playing field when it comes to technology accessibility this year by ensuring that every student has a laptop to use in the classroom.
The school rolled out the Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) program last week, similar to a pilot program launched at Los Altos High last year.
Students have two options for the program – either bring their own laptop or check out a Chromebook through the school to use during the year. Funding from Google Inc. and the Mountain View Los Altos High School Foundation enabled Mountain View High to provide more than 1,000 laptops for student use.
“This is just about helping our students become ready for the world,” said Teri Faught, an instructional support teacher for the Mountain View Los Altos Union High School District. “It’s about helping our students be competitive and fluent in the society that we live in.”
Faught said a unique feature of the BYOD program is its around-the-clock emphasis.
“We want digital learning to be in a student’s hand 24/7 so that there is no discrimination of access,” she said.
The foundation also plans to provide financial help for families unable to afford Wi-Fi installation so that students can continue their laptop use at home.
Under BYOD, students bring their computers to class daily and teachers direct their use. Students routinely use laptops in the classroom to find, create and share digital materials, as well as to access a variety of cloud- and Web-based learning tools and resources.
Faught said teachers would integrate laptop use in their curricula at their discretion.
At the end of the last school year, teachers participated in a “Learning Palooza,” where they shared ideas and explored new classroom tools.
Teachers can use the laptops for full lessons or brief check-ins to note whether students are grasping the concepts. Faught said some teachers use quick 5- to 10-minute surveys to gauge whether students comprehend the material.
“It’s not that they are using the laptops 24/7 in class,” she said. “It’s not a substitution. The teachers will use them in whatever way they find meaningful.”
In addition to the BYOD program, MVLA has adopted the Google Apps for Education (GAFE) domain to streamline communication and connection between students and teachers.
GAFE, a cloud-based learning platform hosted by Google and managed by the district, enables teachers and students to create a range of documents online, send email, share calendars and store an unlimited amount of data to access at home or school on any device.
All students and teachers will receive an mvla.net email address that connects them with all of the GAFE tools.
Faught said that before the school adopted GAFE, communication between teachers and students could be “clunky.”
“Now students have access to all the MVLA addresses when creating a document to share,” she said. “It keeps the focus on learning and makes sharing and communicating even easier.”
GAFE enables the district to collaborate via the use of technology and offers a range of new learning opportunities for teachers and students, according to Mike Mathiesen, associate superintendent for business services. Moving all staff and students into the MVLA GAFE domain will enhance and support how the district uses technology and shares information within and beyond the school community, he added.
Faught said the new technology programs have opened the door for teachers to discuss the importance of students’ maintaining clean digital footprints.
“With college applications and scholarships, people are googling these students,” she said. “If they aren’t seeing more than a bunch of Facebook posts, it isn’t great. Unfortunately, it’s another form of judgment, but we want our students to build a great digital footprint.”