By Joseph Casey
Freshmen and sophomores at Bonita Vista High School recently received the Lenovo Yoga E11 laptops purchased by the Sweetwater Union High School District. Overall, the laptops prove to be useful and effective learning tools for students and set a precedent for the increasing distribution and sophistication of technology within the district.
The new laptops have a number of features which were unavailable to students on the iPads distributed to freshmen in the two previous school years. This has resulted in some students to report a preference for the laptops.
“We barely used our iPads at all our freshman year, so it was kind of pointless. However, I think we will be using the laptops more often,” sophomore Carly Mueller said. “I believe the laptops are a more effective tool.”
The Lenovo Yoga E11 laptops include features that provide students and teachers with new ways to review course curriculum. For example, the laptops give students access to Microsoft Office products, including Word, Excel and PowerPoint. Additionally, some of the former iPad’s capabilities are already available to students on mobile devices.
“Even though there are some really cool services on iPads, like creating movies, students have a lot of that technology with their phones and devices that they carry every day. I don’t think we’re losing a lot from the iPads, but we are gaining a device that’s going to allow them to learn how to work in a more professional atmosphere,” accelerated English 10 teacher Kalie Betts said.
Through the latest new hardware, freshmen and sophomore teachers are able to test their classes without the use of paper. If distribution of the laptops extends to juniors and seniors in future school years, the laptops could be used by the upperclassmen to take specific tests, like the Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium test that cannot be taken on paper or iPads.
“The goal is eventually for students to be able to take a test on the laptop. That’s one function that the iPad just can’t do,” Betts said. “With the current laptops, they can become accustomed to the different keys and things that they have to know in order to take tests on the laptop.”
However, according to junior Tonie Gabrielle Zaballa, the usefulness of technology supplied by the district ultimately depends on an educator’s teaching style and willingness to use the technology. Zaballa does not have a laptop distributed by SUHSD, but previously used iPads in her prior years as a student within the district.
“I used technology supplied by the district in middle school, but it was only useful in some classes. It really depends on how each teacher teaches. If they don’t use technology, it’s pretty much useless,” Zaballa said. “The new technology doesn’t really concern me because I don’t have a lot of teachers that require everything done online.”
Nonetheless, the new laptops allow teachers of freshman and sophomore classes the opportunity to incorporate technology into their lesson plans. With the laptops underclassmen now have the capabilities to complete schoolwork using a common technology, which has encouraged a shift towards the integration of technology and students’ education for some teachers.
“I’m just scratching the surface of using the technology. I’m implementing a Google based classroom where students can view and submit assignments via the laptop. I’m using it a lot for writing assignments in particular,” Betts said.
Some freshman and sophomore students have noticed changes in their assignments and learning with the laptops. Specifically, their education has become more integrated with the new technology within some of their classes.
“We’re doing more group projects, which is easier through the use of the Internet because by using Google Docs, we can write essays together,” Mueller said.
Although not every teacher chooses to use recently distributed technology as an educational tool, there are teachers that rely heavily on modern technology as part of their instruction and assignments. The hardware provides all teachers the opportunity to incorporate more sophisticated technology into their instruction, which may become more common as the supply of modern technology from the district continues and reaches more students.
“I can’t wait until I can go paperless. My goal is to eventually not have to use paper like we currently do. It’s not that I want students to always be looking at a screen, but it’s going to help manage things. I keep everything that I use for lesson planning on my computer, so teaching students how to organize their lives through technology can be really helpful,” Betts said.