The Clinton Herald, Clinton, Iowa

September 10, 2012

Juniors, seniors utilize laptops at Northeast

By Mary Lou Hinrichsen
Herald Staff Writer

GOOSE LAKE — New laptops are becoming more prevalent in schools across the country, and an area school district joined the trend this year.

The Northeast School District purchased 154 laptops for juniors and seniors this year at $503.98 per computer. The laptops are owned by the school district and checked out to each student for the school year.

Students will carry the computer to each class and home each night. Each student and his or her family signed a document agreeing to pay for the loss or damage to the laptop. According to the agreement, if the laptop is stolen, the parents agree to file a complaint with the police and assist in the investigation.

Jennifer Huling’s Language Arts classroom is utilizing the laptops and adjusting to the nuances of the technology.

“The first three days the curriculum was on digital (computer) citizenship,” Huling said. “They then took a 20-question  quiz which covered key concepts and rules from the digital citizenship class.”

Those key concepts included:

n  Privacy and school owned computer.

n  Ethical responsibility (copyright, plagiarism, illegal downloading.)

n  Harassment and bullying.

n  Protect yourself and your personal information.

Huling and teacher Marci Rickords co-authored the course based on criteria provided by curriculum director Dianne Schumacher and Assistant Principal Phillip Bormann.

“In my opinion, ‘digital citizenship’ is a course that should become a required and repeated training for all students and even staff with access to technology,” Huling said. “Many adults  have less knowledge of appropriate use of technology and less experience using it than their own children.”

Huling said her class also must understand that digital footprints are permanent records of online self images.

“At this time, who is responsible for training all students about the rules and etiquette of online activity?” Huling said.

Huling also uses the term “authentic intellectual work,” defined as original writing, graphics or speech that demonstrates a student’s idea or understanding of a subject.

“In English, two students may write to analyze the same short story,  arrive at different conclusions, and both be correct if they’ve supported their interpretation,” Huling said. “In authentic work, students aren’t just memorizing  the right answers, but arrive at them through discovery.”

The  laptops also include a program  called “Turn It In.”

When a student submits their work to “Turn It In,” the software compares it to a database of all writing submitted at the school and to a vast amount of online information.

“If a student took information from CNN, for instance, without putting it in quotes or giving credit to the original author, ‘Turn It In’ notifies the student that they need to revise to avoid taking another person’s work without giving them credit,” Huling said.

Another way laptops are helping students learn, if they have Internet access at home, is the ability to ask the teacher a question from home, via email,  while doing homework.

“While students still get writer’s block on the laptops, they can continue showing me their progress after they leave the room by sharing their live document online,” Huling said.

Other resources for understanding and “stretch” learning are available to students at the click of a mouse.

But when Huling says, “lids down,” it is a signal  that students should be engaged in the human activities in class.

“Our Language Arts textbooks and other content area textbooks are completely available online and in the print version,” Huling said. “The online versions look just like the print version, but often include interactive reviews and suggestions for extended learning. Novels will still be distributed in print form.”

As for other pieces of paper, Huling isn’t using many of those.

“I hadn’t run a single sheet of paper for students until the third week of school — and that was only a single sheet,” Huling said

As for students, they can email, share or post assignments  electronically.”

While the school district could look at what students (and adults) are posting on Facebook, Huling said the school will not browse through Facebook to look for violations.

“However, bullying is anywhere at any time and the use of online social media sites are excellent places for administration to find documentation of prior incidences,” Huling said. “Administration does have the right to check the cache of any computer and can use Facebook remarks against students when deciding disciplinary actions.”