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Schools develop six-point plan to secure future

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BYO computer program to begin this fall at SJND

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Philly school mergers, closures signal new model of education

Court avoiding cases on firing

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placeholder January 23, 2012   •   VOL. 50, NO. 2   •   Oakland, CA

From left, students Lawrence Gayden, Gemeny Givens and Fiona McIntosh at St. Joseph Notre Dame High School in Alameda. This fall, students will bring their own computers to school.
Chris Duffy photo
BYO computer program
to begin this fall at SJND

For many of the “old school” generation, the school year was synonymous with lugging around all kinds of academic baggage — backpacks, book bags, rolling book bags and the like, loaded with heavy books and other school supplies.

The load will be considerably lighter for students attending Alameda’s St. Joseph Notre Dame High School this fall. That’s when the school will launch its Bring Your Own Computer program.

Students will be required to bring their own personal computers — whether it’s a laptop, netbook or tablet — with them to school every day. The computers must meet specific requirements that have been developed by SJND’s technology committee. The requirements include computer devices that have a four-hour battery capacity, a mechanical (not virtual) QWERTY keyboard, and software that supports the latest version of a standard browser. (SJND posted the full list of requirements on its website at http://sjnd.org.)

SJND chose this BYOC program instead of a “one (specific) computer fits all” type program for a number of reasons, said Kristopher White, SJND’s assistant principal of academics. Requiring that students use their own computers provides students with the benefit of being able to use devices that they are already familiar with. Students will also benefit by having ready access to information for research, practice, collaboration and other uses, the ability to communicate to groups of people if and when that is needed, and it will help better equip students for the technologically enhanced life that they will face after leaving the Alameda campus.

SJND’s new personal computing device program will help students “in the development of these skills,” White said.

Students will use the computers in various ways from note-taking and organizing class assignments, to participating in teacher-moderated online student discussions and creating audio and visual content to demonstrate their work. Each academic program at SJND will develop a “technology use plan” to help guide teachers to see how each course can best use the numerous technologies.

The new program is also designed to improve communication between and among all members of the school’s community, White said. Teachers currently communicate electronically with students through e-mail, PowerSchool (a student information system) and through the school’s Moodle site (a software package for producing Internet-based courses and websites) when outside of class.

Next year teachers will be able to provide immediate feedback to students, and students will be able to provide similar feedback to each other electronically through the Internet or other interactive methods.

The BYOC program will not in most cases be a financial burden to families at the high school since, according to research, many students already own a personal computing device. Families can also buy new computer devices that meets the school’s minimum requirements for as little as $400. Refurbished devices can be found for as little as $250.

“When one considers the decreased expenses in textbooks over the four years of high school due to schoolwide use of e-textbooks and online resources, and the fact that this purchase can be spread out over the student’s four years in high school, the expense to families during this transition has been kept as minimal as possible,” White said.

A number of workshops and a new school technology handbook, which will be available in the spring, will help the parents learn more about the BYOC program and how it operates. Students will be brought up to speed by attending a BYOC Startup Camp before the start of the 2012-13 school year.

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