Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Final Thoughts on the Power to Learn Grant

It's hard to believe it's been a year since we started writing the Power to Learn Grant. Some of our original plans were redirected as we looked for ways to get the technology use focused and in the hands of as many students as possible. The iTouch devices we ordered were never used in my classroom as they were assigned to other subject areas. I did have opportunities to use the netbook computers on several occasions to supplement the computers in my room. The students love to use then and will choose them over the older desktop models even knowing that the netbooks do not have some of the capabilities they may need to do the work asked of them.
The drawbacks I found with the netbooks in my Journalism class were pretty basic problems. First, because they do not have the Microsoft suite installed, students are unable to access work they have already begun on the desktop models in my classroom. Second, the size of the netbook makes them cute and easy to transport, but it also makes them too small to be effective for a Journalism class to view photos or yearbook pages. Third, we did experience connection issues every time we tried to use the netbooks. On any given day at least five of the computers would not connect to the network. Thanks to comments at a grant meeting from another school, this was normally resolved by hardwiring the computer during start up. This did however cause a major backlog in getting started as there was only one additional "hot" port in my room causing students to wait turns to try to get started.
The positives I found to the netbooks were: the students love to use them no matter what the assignment; they seemed to stay charged longer than our older COW laptops; they were easy to locate around the room without bumping into each other on desks and tables.
The other device that was used in my room was a MacBook computer. The students also loved to get opportunities to use this even if the programs did not match with the PCs in my room. It has performed flawlessly and seems to be a good size to complete the work needed in my class.
The student e-mail accounts assigned by the district were a problem. If we want students to use online tools such as Google docs then we need to find a more efficient way to get students email addresses and ensure they are working. It took each class two class periods to get their email addresses and get logged on. By the time all the students had finally accessed their accounts they had forgotten their passwords and were starting all over. I would advocate keeping passwords as ID numbers or something much simpler and/or allowing students to change their password on first log in to the same log in they use for the computer. We ended up never using our email because it was too difficult to access. Students were not willing to go through the school technology page to get access to their email. They need accounts they can easily access from anywhere on the Internet.
I think the Power to Learn grant was a positive thing for our school. The teachers involved seem more aware and willing to use the technologies with their students than before we began this process. Hopefully with the district technology roll-out, we will continue making improvements in both staff capabilities and student use.

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