We continue to make progress toward the possible implementation of a 1:1 student laptop program at UHS. Yesterday, I presented a comprehensive overview of the program to the full board of trustees for the first time. My main thrust was to provide as much context as possible so that everyone could understand how we got to this point. I explained that the genesis of the student laptop idea rested in the strategic planning process that the school undertook two years ago. The plan’s technology recommendations included a mandate to review annually the methods used to provide computers to students at UHS.
The purchase of a new building on Sacramento Street accelerated our consideration of change, so that our academic technology committee spent the fall semester of last year reviewing different ways to provide student computer access in our new campus configuration. Last spring, we presented the Faculty with two choices: an expanded desktop computer program that would place more computers in science labs and art classrooms to accommodate the increase in classrooms, and a student laptop program that would virtually eliminate computer labs and provide individual computers to students.
Trustees asked quality, critical questions about the presentation. How will the laptop program bring greater equity to student computer access? Are there less expensive ways to accomplish this? Are alternative devices besides laptop computers available for such a program? How enthusiastically do teachers support this initiative? What are some of the curricular ideas that they envision being able to implement with a laptop program? How will laptops help students do their work for school? Are teachers concerned about possible disruption to classes? Should the school introduce the program in August 2006, January 2007, or August 2007? What other schools have or are considering student laptop programs? What have we learned from our faculty laptop program? How would laptops change teacher practice in the classroom? How would our professional development program support teacher training for student laptop use?
One challenge during this process has been to maintain the focus of the trustees on the students. In my mind, this is primarily a student laptop initiative, and the students will be the primary beneficiaries of the laptop computers. I would predict a rapid increase in student communication and great increases in organization and efficiency of managing documents and other files.
Here are the next steps in the process of considering this proposal. The board chair has created a subcommittee of the finance committee to put together a detailed proposal considering multiple program options that would affect overall cost. The finance committee will review and consider this proposal and then forward it to the full board on November 28 for approval or denial. It is going to be an eventful month!