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Students transition to laptop learning

Sandusky Register Staff • Oct 11, 2013 at 11:00 AM

Never again can an eighth-grader at Port Clinton Middle School dodge a homework assignment.

“Students can no longer make the excuse, ‘I forgot my homework at home,’” said Jan Gluth, director of student, staff and community development at Port Clinton Schools. “It’s all right there for them.”

Each of the 139 eighth-graders in Port Clinton Schools have received a Samsung Chromebook that they’ll be responsible for over the next five years. Each student kicked in $50 for the laptop, which covered a small portion of the total cost.

The program, dubbed “One to World,” should help students develop practical computer skills, as well as providing them easy online access to their coursework and other materials.

“It is completely transforming how our school operates,” said Carrie Sanchez, the school’s principal. “We are preparing kids for the 21st century.”

The district’s teachers have been planning for the program for a full year, so it’s not as if they’re simply improvising as the year progresses.

“We have teachers who have been here two years, and we have a teacher who’s been here 33 years,” Sanchez said. “They’ve all put in the necessary planning to make this a smooth transition.”

It cost about $45,000 to roll out the program this year, although Sanchez said the school cut costs elsewhere to compensate for the expense.

“We’ve been able to offset costs by not purchasing as many textbooks,” she said. “We also no longer have large maintenance expenses that we’ve had in the past.”

The program aims to alter the way students learn and keep up with their homework. Still, classroom learning isn’t about to become 100 percent digital, Sanchez said.

“There are times during the day when it’s more effective to put the Chromebooks away,” she said.

Port Clinton Middle School science teacher Jeff DeBlase is one of the instructors trying to effectively balance traditional learning with digital opportunities.

“The ratio of computer-based teaching to traditional teaching varies from teacher to teacher,” DeBlase said. “But for the most part, students enjoy typing over writing in their notebooks, so I try keep that in mind.”

There’s been no negative feedback from parents or the public thus far.

Sanchez said the school’s staff recognize the challenges of providing students with Internet access.

“We can’t combat inappropriate usage of the laptops any more than we can combat inappropriate conversations at the lunch table,” she said. “The best we can do is clearly define expectations of how the students should use (the laptops).”

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