Technology is no longer seen as a distraction in the classroom, as students in the Mountain View Los Altos Union High School District use laptops daily as tools of learning.
Funds from the MVLA High School Foundation and matching grants from Google Inc. have provided students access to classroom laptops. At Los Altos High, students either bring their own computers to class or check out a Google Chromebook for the year. Mountain View High uses Chromebooks in English and Social Studies classes.
During an assembly earlier this spring, officials from the foundation and high school district shared with the community the results of the first year of district’s “Learning in the Cloud” initiative.
Superintendent Barry Groves said that for years, learning in the classroom has been all about desks, books and a teacher at the front of the room.
“This is the first time in my career that the classroom experience has been truly transformed,” he said. “It’s a game changer.”
Groves, set to retire this month, added that he was happy to see “Learning in the Cloud” enacted during his final year as a superintendent.
School officials said the program would not have been possible without the support of foundation funds – $300,000 that Google matched. The foundation’s contribution enabled the purchase of the laptops and created the infrastructure for cloud-based learning.
“Providing devices is closing the digital divide in a significant way,” said Galen Rosenberg, assistant principal at Lost Altos High.
Mountain View High Principal David Grissom said the school is scheduled to roll out the “Bring Your Own Device” program next year, similar to the program already in place at Los Altos High.
During the “Learning in the Cloud” foundation event, teachers from Mountain View and Los Altos highs demonstrated how the technology is used across different subjects and how it transforms learning.
Gordon Jack, Los Altos High librarian, said that because students now have laptops, they have access to the library no matter where they are, including an expanded catalog of academic journals and other types of online research tools.
“This gives them exposure to research they will be conducting at college and university,” Jack said.
Robert Barker, Los Altos High World Literature teacher, called student volunteers on stage to simulate a classroom discussion wherein students could answer Barker’s questions in real time in an online chat forum that everyone could see.
“It democratizes the classroom,” Barker said. “Every voice gets heard immediately.”
He said it is a particularly effective method for students who are too shy to raise their hands or speak up in class.
Carson Rosenberg, Mountain View High Social Science and AP Psychology teacher, introduced Google Classroom tools. Students have their own email addresses and Google accounts, enabling them to work in interactive and collaborative documents for projects and learn about online organization.
“Having everything stored in their own Google account solves the issue of ‘I forgot it,” she said. “It puts the students in the driver’s seat.”
Los Altos High English teacher Margaret Bennett explained how students could use online programs for reading and annotating online text, which includes immediate feedback from teachers and peers.
During the question-and-answer portion of the event, an audience member asked whether students having the Internet at their fingertips in class poses a distraction.
“I am less distracted because I have work to do,” said one of the student volunteers. “With the computer, we are more engaged. Teachers are seeing the work we are doing and it is a lot harder to get away with that.”
To view a video that shows how the high school district uses the laptops for learning, visit this story at losaltosonline.com.
For more information on the high school foundation, visit mvlafoundation.org.