The student news site of Benilde-St. Margaret's School in St. Louis Park, MN

Knight Errant

The student news site of Benilde-St. Margaret's School in St. Louis Park, MN

Knight Errant

The student news site of Benilde-St. Margaret's School in St. Louis Park, MN

Knight Errant

Senior high discusses future technoloy program

As our society increasingly heads towards one where advanced forms of technology are necessary for most jobs and processes, it has become clear that it is time for schools to begin asking whether this technological advancement has a place in the school system.

With the BSM Junior High in its third year of having a one-to-one laptop program for students and the high school discussing bringing them into the senior high, this issue is being brought up to the administration, parents, teachers, and students alike.

A Successful Test in the Junior High

The one-to-one laptop program originated in the junior high  to examine the program on a small scale before bringing it to the high school. This test has been quite successful over the last three years, and many teachers and students alike are enthusiastic about the program.

Junior high teachers and students use these laptops in many ways in the classroom.  “The laptops are mostly used for the basics, so for research projects, handing homework in, taking quizzes, checking grades, making sure they’re keeping up to date with their homework,” said religion teacher Susie Reinardy. “I use my laptop for just about everything in class as far as giving notes and using the Smartboard for different activities, so I probably use my laptop more in teaching than they do.”

“One benefit to having a laptop is that everything is on Edline, all of the materials are there so if they lose a sheet, if they don’t have something, they can get it,” Ms. Reinardy said.

Losing Learning Skills?

Some worry that students are becoming overly dependent on being able to access assignments and notes from the internet, but teachers for the most part have prevented this. “I don’t put my notes online, I do expect that’s something for them to write out. One year I started allowing them to take notes on their laptops but I didn’t feel that they learned as much,” Ms. Reinardy said.

This feeling of expectation for students is shared by other teachers as well. “Edline is great but it’s much more passive and I don’t feel like students take as active of a role in being well planned, prepared, and organized as they did before they had that tool,” said English teacher Dan Sylvester.

“When we first got the laptops we got rid of the spelling workbooks but the spelling test scores just plummeted and finally I figured out that it’s the physical act of writing that helps prepare students,” Mr. Sylvester said.

Sylvester notes that this change will not be smooth immediately. “The first year we had [the laptops] they was a major headache and I would have gotten rid of them right away.  There were all kinds of problems and things took longer and I still find that things take longer,” Mr. Sylvester said. “I’d really like some more training so I can fully take advantage of this technology, so I’d advise the administration to have more training and various levels of training.”

Reinardy also realizes teachers must use the laptops for the right reasons. “Teachers need to make sure they don’t replace the education with technology––it just becomes a new tool to use to educate,” she said.

Life After the Laptops

The high school’s current absence of a laptop program means that each year about 125 junior high students move to high school to a new way of learning without a laptop, which can sometimes be a welcomed blessing and other times a dreaded horror.

“It was nice having them to research and write papers, but for notes I didn’t like them as much because I can’t study off of a computer,” said freshman Alex Bonvino. “I like not having one now and it’s easier to have hard copies because once I lost all my information because I didn’t know how to use my hard drive.”

Other students have completely had to learn how to re-organize their assignments and notes now that they cannot rely on the laptops, and they emerge from the junior high in the mindset of using a laptop during school, which can cause a rude awakening for teachers and students alike when these students reach high school.

A Tough Transition to the High School

As the senior high currently doesn’t provide laptops, many junior high students worry that their transition next year will be a difficult one. “It will be so weird [not having a laptop] because I got so used to having it, just going to your laptop for homework or to write a paper and I won’t have that resource anymore,” said current eighth grader Paige Lawlor. “I think there are a lot of kids who will have organization problems because many are reliant on them to have their schedule and homework.”

Freshman honors English teacher Maura Brew also sees some carryover from the junior high laptop mentality in her classes. “I’m seeing a nervousness about writing without a computer for in-class essays, and kids need to be able to think without the computer,” Mrs. Brew said. “The first few weeks of freshman year have been a focus on reminding kids to use their assignment notebook because not everything will be posted on a Web site for them to access.”

This junior high laptop mentality has also created a rude awakening for students when it comes to hard copy deadlines. “Last year, I noticed a tendency to not panic if students hadn’t done their homework, they could just email it to me or get it to me by the end of the day, and that was unusual for me to hear; students can’t just email it later and think that it’s still okay,” said Mrs. Brew.

Technology Issues
Unfortunately, the solution is not as simple as just providing laptops for all students and faculty, but involves a huge behind-the-scenes technology upgrade.

“Before we even implement the laptops we have to buy servers to manage all the file transfers, beef up the Internet, and upgrade all of the hardware and infrastructure so the network can handle so many laptops,” said Nicholas Gamache, a member of BSM’s tech team.

BSM recently hired a new Director of Technology and Learning, Steve Pohlen, to address some of these issues in the process of advancing BSM technologically. “When I first got here, I wasn’t as aware of the needs, so I assumed we could start the program next year, but it’s going to take a little longer than I would have liked,” said Mr. Pohlen. “First of all, the number of wireless nodes [in the junior high ] is really thick compared to the senior high  because the infrastructure isn’t as up to date, and it’ll take us awhile to have the correct infrastructure to make it happen,” he said.

Technology issues have become fairly routine in the junior high with so many laptops as well, including a problem on all computers that was fixed in October.

Additionally, many students often lose their information or files because they don’t know how to properly back up their information. “Students lose their data a lot, and it’s the responsibility of the school to find it again, but we have nothing to give them,” said Pohlen. “All we can do is tell them how to back up their files and hope they do it, but there are many students who don’t which causes a lot of problems.”

Almost all junior high students have experienced problems of some kind with their laptops. “I’ve had so many problems with my computer: when I got my laptop it didn’t have any sound, sometimes when I open up a Word document, the rainbow spin wheel of death appears and won’t let me do anything, and sometimes random things come up that say there’s a problem syncing the files,” said seventh grader Matt Brinza.  “All the technical problems are a downside to having the computers, like losing information or not being able to use it for a few days which is hard since you basically need them for all classes.”

But the administration is hopeful that these problems are minor and can be fixed and that BSM will be able handle the technical issues when the program is implemented into the high school. “There are much larger schools than ours that have laptop programs who do not have all of these problems, so I think the problems are temporary, and I think we have a very talented tech support staff,” said Assistant Principal Mary Andersen.

For Students, not for Publicity

In making the decision to bring laptops to the high school, the school is being very deliberate about its reasoning. “If we did bring laptops to the senior high, it would have to be for the benefit of learning, not for marketing. Technology often can be a replacement for learning, so instead of writing notes, you type them, but that’s not what we’re talking about. We’re talking about making the learning substantially better, and getting laptops to transform and enhance learning,” said Principal Sue Skinner.

“As a school you need to be very deliberate about using technology in an academic sense, and the junior high has done a nice job with this. It’s not just this glorified word processor, and it’s not just having it to say we have it,” said Mrs. Andersen. “We have to be responsible about this and really work it into the academics.”

While the number one reason for upgrading BSM’s technology is for the students’ learning sake, the admissions department does recognize how it could change what the school publicizes. “I think it will help our public relations, and at that time we would need to position ourselves so when we market [the laptops] we’re talking about the innovative uses and not just having them,” said Kate Leahy, Associate Director of Enrollment Management.

Not Necessarily a Laptop

In making the decision to upgrade technology, the school needs to decide what form this technology upgrade will take. “It’s not even clear that it’s a laptop,” said Mr. Pohlen. “Really what we’re talking about is a one-to-one device program, so that might be an iPod Touch, a PDA, or some other handheld device that every student has. The key is that you are able to collaborate with other students and enhance learning.”

There is a faculty advisory committee on technology that includes seven teachers and Mr. Pohlen who meet regularly to discuss and decide on these issues, as Mr. Pohlen doesn’t want to have these decisions made at the administrative level, but based off of input from teachers and students as well.

“With technology you always have to be open to the idea that things are going to shift, and I think people get frustrated because they want a five year plan but we have to be willing to modify and adjust what we’re looking for based on the realities,” said Mr. Pohlen.

Teachers admit that the school can’t truly know what exactly they’re looking for because of how quickly technology develops. “It’s somewhat scary, because we’re preparing people to use something that hasn’t even been invented yet,” said Mr. Tom Backen, English teacher.

Leave a Comment

Comments (0)

The Knight Errant intends for this area to be used to foster healthy, thought-provoking discussion. Comments are expected to adhere to our standards and to be respectful and constructive. As such, we do not permit the use of profanity, foul language, personal attacks, or the use of language that might be interpreted as libelous. Comments are reviewed and must be approved by a moderator to ensure that they meet these standards. The Knight Errant does not allow anonymous comments, and the Knight Errant requires first and last names and a valid email address in order for comments to be published. The email address will not be displayed but will be used to confirm your comments.
All Knight Errant Picks Reader Picks Sort: Newest

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Activate Search
The student news site of Benilde-St. Margaret's School in St. Louis Park, MN
Senior high discusses future technoloy program