By Allison Cho, Camille Grandjean, and Grace McDermott
Many students are familiar with the current school laptops: bulky, slow, and constantly low on battery. But technology at Payton will soon undergo a drastic change, in its role and quality, in an effort to further enhance the developing project-based curriculum. In the fall of 2017, Payton will be implementing one-to-one computing into every classroom; in other words, each and every Payton student will be getting their own laptop to use at school, home, or anywhere in between.
With the number of incoming freshmen steadily increasing, it’s no surprise that the Payton administration has begun to rethink technology at a school of almost a thousand. However, few predicted a scenario where every student would have their own laptop, a four-year plan expected to be effective at the beginning of next fall.
According to Principal Tim Devine, the recently approved proposal was not his alone. In fact, the discussion behind the decision included input from many parts of the Payton community.
“The Local School Council, which has representation from students, parents, community, and faculty, was front and center in the conversation in developing this,” he explained. “This is part of our CIWP, which is the Continuous Improvement Work Plan that all schools in the state of Illinois have.”
Students informed of the decision expressed surprise, taking several factors into consideration when looking at potential effects of the one-to-one program.
“I think it’s a cool, innovative step for Payton, but I think one-to-one systems sometimes make it harder to focus during class because you have the technology in front of you,” said Emmy Smith ‘20.
For the students who already bring their own laptop to school, this change may not reap many benefits.
Michael Haran ‘18, said a laptop provided from the school would “probably not [be beneficial]; I don’t see why I would need a second laptop.”
The one-to-one program will not be implemented until the fall of 2017, which means current seniors will not have the chance to experience the impending change. Although current seniors will barely miss this development, they aren’t counting their losses.
“I don’t feel like I’m missing out because most of our learning should be done through human interaction,” said Olive Welsh ‘17. “The school should allow students to bring their own laptops to school and lend Chromebooks to students who don’t have one.”
While many students are able to bring their own laptops to school, teachers cannot currently form a curriculum assuming every student has a laptop, limiting the curricular possibilities in terms of technology. Principal Devine is excited about the prospects that one-to-one computing will bring to Payton’s academic environment.
“It’s not just computers for all students for the sake of having computers, but rather a tool for academic inquiry into solving problems and creating innovative solutions to problems,” said Devine. “The access of many resources for students is critical to being able to solve problems in a meaningful way.”
In addition to the growth of critical analysis skills, Devine expects this program to help Payton students in college and the real world. With modern technology flourishing, students who learn how to use the most advanced tools will be given an advantage.
“Our curriculum needs to enliven your academic experiences here and now, but also, as a college preparatory high school, your university professors will expect on day one, with minimal training, that you will be able to know and use different technology tools,” Devine added. “We know very well that innovators will need to know how to navigate and use Internet-based tools to solve problems.”
The one-to-one system is expected to change not only the resources provided, but the structure and organization of the entire curriculum.
“Our teachers can plan knowing that students will have access to the online resources and the software programs that would come with it,” said Devine. “There are a number of students here at Payton who have no internet access or computers at home. Even now when we have Moodle and teacher webpages, that leaves a number of students trying to figure out how to simply access curriculum, which is not a fair thing.”
Maintaining such a large number of computers may seem like a daunting task, but Payton’s new technology coordinator Mr. Ron Carroll expressed more excitement than concern about the prospect of one-to-one computing. Mr. Carroll and Mr. Mulroy, who has been at Payton for ten years, will work as a team to manage the 1000+ computers that will be distributed to students in the 2017-18 school year.
Luckily for Payton, Mr. Carroll joins us with previous experience in one-to-one computing under his belt, so for him it will not be a large adjustment. While to many students and faculty, it may seem as if the benefit will be bogged down by the stress of maintaining each computer, Mr. Carroll believes otherwise.
“Chromebook management is actually very easy since it’s all cloud-based and can be managed from one centralized computer from anywhere in the world,” said Mr. Carroll. “There’s a lot you can do in a classroom when everybody has a device, no matter what it is. Any kind of technology you have in your classroom opens up more possibilities.”
The 2016-17 school year will be devoted to training teachers on how to best utilize the benefits of one-to-one in classrooms. More technology, such as Google Classroom, will be incorporated into this year’s curriculum as well, in order to ease the Payton community into this major shift as best as possible.
Principal Devine also pointed out that there are many logistics questions to answer, such as whether students with personal laptops will have the choice between their own computer and the Chromebook provided, and what will be done with the existing laptop carts at Payton. However, in these starting stages, he and the rest of the faculty are optimistic about the one-to-one program.
“I hope [the student body] will see that our curriculum has continued to evolve with forethought and reason throughout the years, and this is yet another evolution of that curriculum,” said Devine. “I hope students will embrace the resource that one-to-one technology would bring that otherwise is not available. Such tools would just be basic entry points and would really enhance our curriculum. We hope the student body is excited about it and we will continue to ask for student feedback on how we can use this in even better ways.”