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Learning by laptop

Google Chromebooks sit on each desk in a classroom at St. Thomas the Apostle School in Delmar. The school paid for the computers for each sixth-grade student through a 2010 capital campaign.

Google Chromebooks sit on each desk in a classroom at St. Thomas the Apostle School in Delmar. The school paid for the computers for each sixth-grade student through a 2010 capital campaign.

The days of heading to the chalkboard may soon be a thing of the past.

At St. Thomas the Apostle School in Delmar, sixth-graders are getting a chance to learn using Google Chromebooks. The laptops, which are built to pick up a WiFi signal, give students the opportunity to share projects and assignments with classmates and teachers.

“The idea of it is we are out in a cloud,” said Julie Sica, Technology Coordinator at the school. “We’re not storing documents, we’re not taking pictures and downloading them to our own computers and then going home, to the library, or to grandmother’s house and saying, ‘Oh, I forgot my homework.’ It’s all saved in the cloud, in the web.”

St. Thomas is one of the first schools in the country to use the technology. All students need is a Google email account, which gives them access to elements such as documents, spreadsheets and other projects posted by classmates and teachers.

Sica said the 22 students in sixth grade have not taken the computers home, and added that because most have a personal computer at home, they can access the information there.

“It’s a learning curve for us, because we haven’t done this before, so the students are learning really slowly,” said Sica.

Principal Tom Kane said the technology has changed drastically since those who are now parents were in school.

“When I speak to people of my generation who have school-aged children, we are constantly reminded that we grew up in an era where the future was talked about quite a bit,” said Kane. “It was long spoken of that a time would come when textbooks or notebooks would be gone, or you would be learning on electronic blackboards.”

An equally important part of the program for Kane is the ability for staff to protect the privacy of students while they work on the lightweight personal laptops.

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