YES Prep Eisenhower is breaking new ground for piloting YES Prep’s first 1:1 laptop program. The program aims to help close the digital divide, the gap between those who have regular access to internet and computers and those who do not. As part of the program, each student is assigned a school-owned laptop for use in class and at home.
School Director Jamie Downs previously worked with Houston Independent School District’s PowerUp program at Sharpstown High School and advocated for a similar program at YES Prep. “We know that incorporating technology is the most important skill in the 21st Century,” he said. “It allows students to explore beyond the classroom. They’ll be using the laptops to conduct research, make presentations, and write papers– all skills that they’ll need for college and the work place.”
According to Chris Darville, YES Prep’s Director of Instructional Technology, the pilot will help YES Prep determine what it takes to successfully implement and maintain a 1:1 program. “We will be making ongoing improvements to increase the effectiveness of the program at Eisenhower,” he stated. “Once we reach a level of proficiency, we can then explore options to replicate this program at other YES Prep schools.” Darville believes that the program will help foster student engagement and improve critical thinking, a key predictor of college readiness and completion. “The infusion of technology in the teaching environment will also open up content delivery options,” he said. “Eventually, our teachers will have the option to deliver content in flipped or blended modalities.”
Steve Nickerson’s World Geography students use the laptops to access lesson materials such as the agenda, lesson powerpoints, supplemental videos, and interactive maps. Nickerson also uses One Note to provide individualized real-time feedback on students’ in-class assignments and homework. “Having the laptops will help ease the transition from high school to college,” he said. “We are teaching them how to organize their assignments and school work digitally, and they’re also becoming familiar with online platforms to submit assignments and papers.”
Nickerson surveyed his students about what they liked about the laptops and how they use them inside and outside of school. Ninth-grader Jose Duran Robles reported: “It is a resource for projects and has all the things I need to be successful in school. It also helps me stay organized because I can just check my grades and see how I’m doing in school.” Other students reported the ease with which they could complete and submit assignments, access lesson materials when they were absent, and research topics that were of interest to them. Of course, students use the laptops for entertainment as well. Many indicated that they loved to listen to music, play games, and watch Netflix outside of school. Students even personalize the laptops: changing backgrounds and adding profile photos. This, too, is part of closing the digital divide.