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Goshen High School learned much from first year with student laptops

What did Goshen High School took away from its first year of giving students laptops?
Marlys Weaver-Stoesz
Posted on March 25, 2012 at 1:00 a.m. | Updated on March 25, 2012 at 4:49 a.m.

GOSHEN — Goshen High School is now moving on to year two of its laptop program, with the Goshen School Board considering bids at its meeting Monday night for the purchase of laptops for this fall's freshmen.

As Goshen's plans for one-to-one computing came together last year, school leaders talked about this as a learning year and, looking back, Assistant Principal Noah Tonk said that's what it has been.

“Obviously, planning is key,” he said.

The Goshen School Board awarded the contract to purchase the laptops at the end of July and students received the laptops a month later. That didn't leave much time to train teachers in integrating the laptops or managing a classroom where students have laptops, Tonk said. It also didn't provide much time for teaching the kids how to use the laptops.

That will change this fall, when sophomores and incoming freshmen will be required to take an online course about how to properly use their personal computers.

Tim Koontz, a health teacher at Goshen High School who uses the laptops almost daily in his classes, agreed that the student training will help make next year smoother.

Koontz realized after several class periods that not all students knew exactly how to use their laptops or to do basic tasks like how and where to save documents on the computer. He took a class period in each course to go over those steps.

“Some students barely know how to log on to the computer,” Koontz said, “while others could take it apart and put it back together.”

Some teachers are now also able to see on the teacher's computer what all the students in the classroom are doing on their computers, he said.

A formal committee looking at issues to do with the laptops is also further developing policies, including those guidelines on social media sites.

Several students will also leave Goshen High School with some technological training because of the program.

Goshen High School has developed a three-class program for students to learn about and repair the high school's laptops. Between 35 and 40 students are involved now, Tonk said. The classes cover basic, intermediate and more advanced laptop repair work, with students taking on appropriate repairs on the student laptops at each level. The goal, Tonk said, is to have students earning an IBM A+ certification and a Lenovo certification, which allow the school to be reimbursed for on-site repairs of the students' Lenovo laptops and to pay the students for repairing the laptops.

“Once those kids graduate, they can go to a company and say, ‘I have two certifications and have been working on computers for pay for two years,'” Tonk said.

English teacher Randi Mochamer said she had been skeptical about the program at first, but has been in awe of the ownership students have taken with their laptops.

“It helps bring the curriculum to life,” she said, saying that it also helps get kids reading more.

With the end of the school year nearing, Koontz said he too feels good about the program, though there were some rocky points.

“Like anything, when you first implement it, there are things you need to work through,” he said.

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