Many schools aim to have one computer for every student. Pasco's Gulf Trace Elementary School in Holiday is making it happen — at least for two classrooms of fourth- and fifth-graders.
Principal Hope Schooler spoke with the Pasco Times recently about how she made that happen, and why.
How did this pilot project begin?
My tech specialist Rob Borsky and I were talking last year. We made sure that all of our teams have mobile labs. And we said it would be nice to have a class that really focused on technology, because that was the way of the world. We really need to look at our students as 21st century learners. And what could we do to do that?
So we began doing some brainstorming together and we said, why don't we see if we have the funds within house that we could purchase laptops that could be used in a classroom, and really look at how we could set up something where that group of students really focused their learning on using the laptop, using the Internet, using different resources and becoming a little more paperless at the same time, because we are a green school, so that would be another issue we could address.
You said funds you have available in the school. Where did you find that? Because most schools are saying they have no funds.
We were fortunate in that we still had some funds left to purchase things because we are a new school. We just started our third year. We had money left that we could use to purchase things that would help students. And we felt with the technology like it is in society today, we really needed to look at how we could help students. And that was one way we could.
How much did that end up costing?
Laptops are a little over $1,000.
So you got one class of 18?
We got a class of 25. And because we had mobile labs, we were able to be creative and move some laptops in those mobile labs around to create another set of 25. Now, each mobile lab for each team still has 20 laptops for that team to use each day.
When you say team …
Every single team in the school has a mobile lab with 20 laptops in it. And we have six other teams besides this one. … The other two teachers on this team still have 10 laptops in their mobile lab. So no classroom is left without having access to laptops every single day.
How does this class differ then?
These two classes have 25 laptops for them to use any time during the day, or all day if they want.
How did you choose the classes? Were they the students who were most likely to do well with computers?
No. … What we did is we just said we need to look at what the students' needs are. We focused on reading first. We looked at them and made small groups according to need. Then we looked at other issues that might arise such as behavior. … We made our classes based on that. … It was just kind of luck of the draw for these 50 students. We have had a parent orientation. … They were with us for about an hour and a half that night.
What do they need to be trained about?
We needed to let them know what the program is all about, how we were putting it together. Giving them examples of things the students might be doing. One of the questions from a parent was, would they be doing everything on the computer and staying on the computer all day? No, we're not on the computer all day. There are times when the teachers need to teach lessons. And it's not going to be on the computer. So there will be other techniques, other strategies the teachers will need to be teaching and they will use other forms of teaching besides just the computer.
Are the computers going home with the kids as well?
Eventually they will. … Step one is where they stay on the computers working, but the computers stay at school. Then we'll eventually have step two, where the students will be able to take them home.
We'll have assignments. Because a lot of the things they will do to show they're understanding the things we are teaching them will be project-based learning. … So they will be able to do things on their computer and bring it back the next day and continue working on it in class. But in step two they will not have access necessarily to Internet on the computers.
Just for safety, to begin with, until the students become more familiar with everything and understand. And the parents were very comfortable with that, because that was a concern. … Then step three will be eventually we will change and let them have access to the Internet.
This is not something the students will keep, is it? This is not a gift to them.
No. Absolutely not. At the end of the year they will be back here at school. And in the classes, because of the continuity of care and Pasco's philosophy … we will try to keep them in that class.
When you talked about the projects the students will be doing, does that mean in addition to the content of the class the students will be learning programs?
PowerPoint, iMovie, building podcasts, things like that. Yes. Students will be learning techniques.
Do students in other classes do that as well?
The students in other classes have opportunities that the teachers know a lot of those different technology programs and they have access to that.
A lot of times what happens is they work more in small groups vs. every single child being able to do it. … It would be more of a center. It would take them a lot longer to develop a complete project.
Do you have a goal to make it that all the students in all the classrooms have access like this?
We would love to be able to do that. But, of course, it all goes back to the funds.
We were fortunate in that we had a little bit of money left and we thought, what's the best way to spend it that will help our students the most … to be 21st century learners. Because that is where we are going.