Don't leave your computer at home, kids

All LAHS students required to bring a laptop to school this fall

Along with pencils, pens and notebooks, students at Los Altos High School need to add something else to their list of school supplies: a laptop. Los Altos high is bolstering its use of technology in the classroom, and starting this fall, all students will be expected to have a device comparable to a laptop for class activities.

The new requirement is called the "Bring Your Own Device" policy, and has been in the works for about a year, according to Galen Rosenberg, assistant vice principal at LAHS. He said they looked at two different schools -- Notre Dame High School in San Jose and James Logan High School in Union City -- that implemented a similar BYOD policy to see what works.

Notre Dame is a private, Catholic girls' school that requires students to bring a device from home, and does not provide laptops for students who do not have one or can't afford one. Rosenberg said it's easy to implement device policies at private schools that can just force everyone to go out and buy a laptop.

Logan, on the other hand, is a public school that plans to provide devices for every student at the school. It's not fully implemented yet, but Rosenberg said a "section" of their student body now has school-provided devices.

Between the two extremes -- buying laptops for everyone or forcing everyone to buy their own -- Los Altos High School is going for somewhere in the middle. Rosenberg said he estimates about half of the students will bring a device from home to use at school, and the other half will need devices provided by the school. So to kick off the policy, the school will buy about 800 Chromebooks, a Google device similar to a laptop, for the roughly 1,800 students attending LAHS this fall.

Los Altos High School will use grant money from Google and the MVLA High School Foundation to fund the new policy. Most of the money will go into purchasing hundreds of Chromebooks.

Not any old device will do, though. The policy requires that the device have at least an 11-inch screen, and cannot be a iPad or other tablet device. Rosenberg said things like the iPad, which can be used for some classroom activities, has a limited capacity for creating and sharing documents through the cloud -- a key component to the BYOD policy. He said with laptops, students will be able to easily share created media, audio and video content with each other.

Chromebooks will be checked out at the beginning of the year, similar to a textbook, and will be returned at the end of the school year. LAHS is also discussing the possibility that students could rent a laptop at the beginning of freshman year and keep it until graduation.

Rosenberg said the requirement may seem strange or unreasonable to people who aren't familiar with today's technology, but cloud computing and a personal digital devices are the norm in college and many high schools, and the price point -- about $225 per Chromebook -- is feasible. He said most students will be ready for the school-wide tech upgrade, and already use devices to augment their schoolwork.

"This is where kids are gonna be if they aren't already," Rosenberg said. "Some teachers already know what they're going to do with the devices."

In a document shared with LAHS staff titled "Learning in the Cloud: BYOD Rationale," school administrators said they looked at the plethora of possible problems that could come up with a BYOD policy. Things like lost or broken devices, maintenance, theft, proper use and supervision were all taken into consideration, and found to be "surmountable" problems and a worthwhile trade-off.

Rosenberg said less than 10 percent of other student bodies had problems with devices, and there's a tendency to think losing or damaging a Chromebook is much different than losing or damaging other school supplies. He said if students lose their jerseys, a textbook or even a helmet, those can add up to a few hundred dollars as well.

One perk to the new device policy is that everyone, wealthy or not, will have access to a personal digital device as a school resource. Rosenberg said starting next year, every student will be on even footing. He said there will be some envy when students bring in their fancy computers, and there's no way to account for inequity in Internet access, but the BYOD policy is a good start.

"In terms of equity, this is a huge step forward," Rosenberg said.


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Posted by Ricky Clarkson
a resident of Cuernavaca
on Jul 11, 2014 at 10:49 am

My French is limited, but I think it'll be Notre Dame, not Nortre Dame, meaning "Our Lady".

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Posted by Kate
a resident of Waverly Park
on Jul 11, 2014 at 2:32 pm

Will MVHS be doing the same thing as LAHS or is the MVLA Foundation only funding LAHS?

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Posted by Janet
a resident of Waverly Park
on Jul 11, 2014 at 2:42 pm

What happens when a student-owned laptop gets stolen out of the PE lockers like many of the iphones kids bring to school?

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Posted by eric
a resident of another community
on Jul 11, 2014 at 4:20 pm

Dr. Groves' heavy bias towards LAHS over MVHS shows itself once again.

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Posted by Ron
a resident of Waverly Park
on Jul 11, 2014 at 4:46 pm

Chromebooks defeat a primary purpose. If this is an equalizer (as the article states) the student without a computer at home probably does not have internet at home. If they have not internet access, those Chromebooks are essentially paperweights. Most schools I have seen doing this use tablets, which are a lot more versatile in this sort of thing than you would think.

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Posted by David Harkness
a resident of Shoreline West
on Jul 11, 2014 at 6:07 pm

To Ron's point, many kids who don't have a laptop or tablet probably have a desktop PC which implies net access at home.

What I don't get is the no-tablet stance given that a Chromebook is essentially a tablet with a keyboard like Microsoft's Surface. What cloud-based video/audio composition software that won't work on a tablet are they counting on? It almost seems like there's a concerted effort to force the use of some Chromebooks when tablets would likely suffice.

I'm really curious to see how the curriculum is being modified to take advantage of this tech. Historically, computers in education haven't been utilized that well. The reasons involve both a lack of meaningful educational software and deep thought into making use of the computing power.

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Posted by Steve A.
a resident of Rengstorff Park
on Jul 11, 2014 at 6:56 pm

Instead of 20 lbs of books AND a laptop the school should put all the textbooks on a tablet and use Google Docs for sharing. Cost would be less than buying paper books and the kids wouldn't have to carry around extra weight.

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Posted by Peggy
a resident of Cuesta Park
on Jul 12, 2014 at 11:01 am

My son's teachers at MVHS would often say that students should bring in their laptops for assignments the next day. They just assumed EVERYONE had one and it made it very embarrassing and unfair for the assignments for my son who did not have a laptop.

I agree with Ron and David that tablets would be just as affective as Chromebooks but weigh less and can even cost less. And I also agree with David that in the past technology has not been used effectively - another reason being the lack of training to the staff and teachers. They don't really know how to utilize them in an effective way combined with curriculum. It would make a lot of sense to take the time to train staff in this area and to spend the time developing meaningful curriculum rather than putting the cart before the horse and ordering the devices - then worry about what to do with them. This has been the pattern at the elementary schools.

I'd be interested in how many staff members really have the training and know what their students will do with the devices. I'm sure there are some tech savvy teachers, but from my children's experiences and the assignments that have been given, there are not many.

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Posted by parent
a resident of Old Mountain View
on Jul 13, 2014 at 6:15 pm

I am a very experienced programmer and developer of complex computer systems, and have come to the belief that most computer use in school is a waste -- most programming does not teach basic organizational and mathematical skills necessary for good efficient designs--and a computer is not necessary for this. Learning does not need fancy new tools. What happened to the support of basic teaching, science, math, languages, literature, art, music, etc.? These are not real helped by computers or the internet--the internet doesn't teach people how to do complex tasks, to create things or understand things better, if anything, i have seen it often do the opposite in learning.
A thought to consider when promoting electronic learning: Babies can learn languages listening to humans, but fail completely to pick them up if they only hear the language on the monitor.
Doing tasks by hand can be far more rewarding and experimental than anything with the web. Though I doubt many understand this anymore.

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Posted by Another Parent
a resident of Cuernavaca
on Jul 13, 2014 at 6:57 pm


The article did not say the school would be doing away with, or sidestepping the core essentials of instruction. Students will still be taught the fundamentals of math (Chromebooks will probably be used very little in math classes), and will continue to receive direct instruction in writing, analyzing, science labs, etc.

But more and more, devices can supplement and enhance learning. Books and databases can be accessed online. Note taking is quicker (and more legible). An entire class can see (or share) the same material. Teachers can see realtime how students are progressing on a topic. The advantages of sites like Kahn Academy are well-documented, and have a positive impact when applied in the appropriate areas. And yes, even learning foreign language can be enhanced by programs that allow students to listen and practice speaking the new language at home.

Colleges have an expectation that students arrive on campus with the ability and experience of using a computer during day-to-day lectures and studies. The Common Core testing that will be implemented in California schools next spring is all done on computer. The SATs have indicated that one of their upcoming changes will be for students to test via computer.

For all of these reasons, it's critical that students become comfortable using technology in their daily academic lives. I've attended many 21st century learning seminars, and there are a multitude of ways learning is enhanced by technology. It's not meant to be a substitute for the basics.

As a parent, I commend Los Altos for being one of the first public high schools to take this step. Certainly learning (by teachers, staff, etc) will happen along the way, but it's time to jump in.

PS - In response to commentary about the choice of Chromebooks...perhaps the large grant from Google (which does do some nice things in our community), had an effect. Also, the price point of a Chromebook is less than an I-Phone, and not much more than a new textbook.

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Posted by No
a resident of another community
on Jul 14, 2014 at 12:02 pm

Kids don't need to use laptops at school. If the school wants them to be used, they can provide them and take on the liability.

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Posted by Grandma
a resident of Old Mountain View
on Jul 14, 2014 at 2:33 pm

Maybe Apple can sponsor and offer to all High schools in the Bay some IPad for students who can not afford the cost of a laptop or IPad.....not all parents have the money to buy them.....good advertisement for Apple...
It can be old Ioad (old generation).. Just an idea ...Yes computer belongs to the new generation and it is the future..but do not forget how to write and to learn the language ..

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Posted by Peggy
a resident of Cuesta Park
on Jul 14, 2014 at 3:49 pm

Okay, I agree that kids should be tech savvy, but does that mean they have to have laptops in the classroom? As a taxpayer and parent, I am tired of all my $$$ being spent on the newest technology (but not necessarily utilized in the best way). Each year we hear that our schools need newer computers. Our children's schools always have the latest and newest computers in the computer labs, tutorial centers or libraries. Now we ignore all those and purchase for each student a laptop or tablet or whatever is the latest and greatest?

Again, the root problem goes back to how do the TEACHERS use the technology to teach the curriculum? How are the devices actually being utilized? I think it is assumed teachers will figure it out as the technology is being provided - that is not a safe assumption. They need administrative support in getting the training - too often that does not happen. Too often it is left up to the teacher to spend their own time figuring it out - or not figuring it out. I have not seen the existing technology at schools used in a effective way with curriculum. It is usually just using it as a word processor or looking up things on the internet.

I'd hate to think a major reason we are purchasing laptops for each student is so they can take the new common core testing. And there can be an argument made about how necessary a device is inside the classroom. My son said at college nearly every student brings their laptop to class. Not to take notes in the most efficient way - to check their emails and Facebook accounts. He said it is amazing how many students are playing games and entertaining themselves while the teacher is trying to teach.

I really wish that school districts would stop putting the cart before the horse and figure out what it is they can do with the technology that the taxpayers are supplying BEFORE purchasing what they think they need.

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Posted by parent
a resident of Old Mountain View
on Jul 14, 2014 at 11:03 pm

Wouldn't it be wise to first design in detail how the computers would be used by the teachers and students and then study this comparing two equal groups of students, one using this detailed teaching plan, and one using a successful traditional non-high tech teaching plan?
I have heard when movies and tv first came out, schools were so eager to install projectors and later tvs in every room to use films and broadcast educational tv programs to replace classroom lectures in high school.

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Posted by Tom Peterson
a resident of Old Mountain View
on Jul 15, 2014 at 2:42 am

IT is a really a good start by school. I appreciated. But with this, school should consider the security breaches in terms of software and hardware. School need to be prepared for increasing viruses/ malwares attacks. A good antivirus solution or application whitelisting software such as anti-executable will be the added advantage for school. Or going with cloud solutions will work perfect. Hope you already taken care of it. Best Luck!

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Posted by Chromebook or Laptop
a resident of another community
on Jul 15, 2014 at 3:02 am

This article is really misleading. Chromebooks cost about $200. It's not the same thing as a real laptop. Here's one for $139: Web Link

Now requiring $139 in the way of a supply is large, but it's not what people think of when they think of requiring a laptop. As Tom Peterson mentioned there's the issue of antivirus software and this is a heck of a lot better than using a laptop that is also used for other things. Also if it gets damaged or lost, there's a lot less cost involved.

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Posted by Big Challenge
a resident of another community
on Jul 15, 2014 at 3:13 am

No doubt MVLA will find it to be quite a challenge to operate a WiFi infrastructure sufficient for every student to be online with a computer during the say. Especially with chromebooks as are to be provided to those unable to buy their own.... the network is the computer. The kids can't bring the network with them, not really.

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Posted by parent
a resident of Old Mountain View
on Jul 15, 2014 at 9:46 am

@another parent:
You write: " Note taking is quicker (and more legible). "

Scientific American writes: " New research by Pam Mueller and Daniel Oppenheimer demonstrates that students who write out their notes on paper actually learn more. "

see: Web Link

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Posted by parent
a resident of Old Mountain View
on Jul 15, 2014 at 9:49 am

Also from the same article in Scientic American of interest to note:

They write:

" In most typical college settings, however, internet access is available, and evidence suggests that when college students use laptops, they spend 40% of class time using applications unrelated to coursework, are more likely to fall off task, and are less satisfied with their education. In one study with law school students, nearly 90% of laptop users engaged in online activities unrelated to coursework for at least five minutes, and roughly 60% were distracted for half the class."

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Posted by one more parent
a resident of Old Mountain View
on Jul 15, 2014 at 10:14 am

In the New Yorker, there is also a recent article about the problems learning using computers in the classroom and how students do much better, retain information longer, and understand the underlying concepts better when they are not used. They even discuss this happening in programming classes!
See the article at: Web Link

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Posted by Linux Geek
a resident of Jackson Park
on Jul 16, 2014 at 3:35 am

Actually folks, Chromebooks are not Android based tablets at all, they are full fledged Linux graphical desktops running the same Chromium browser you can download for your PC; albeit with limited functionality outside of the browser. It's quite possible to fit a full AV production suite into 2.5GB, and a full office suite is less than 1GB. A Chromebook is just a 4GB RAM laptop with a 16GB flashdrive as the storage. "Low resolution" 11 inch 720P displays are down to $40 or less from china depending on model. You buy a 16GB flashdrive at fry's for $10 these days. Why is it so hard to imagine that Google can build a functional laptop for ~$199 each? I mean, the ones with 4G cellular modems cost a bit more, $349 for HP's with 'free tmobile'; but wifi's probably going to be easier to secure on most high school campuses than the desktop computers that have EPOXY GLUE in the USB ports and are chained down so that the only thing you can do is surf the web from a childsafe proxy server and edit MS office files. Yet still these high school kids seem to make network shares full of games and porn on school servers often for months before the teachers (who are not technically trained for computer talents) discover and report it to school IT staff.

Recycle the old desktop machines, in with the chromebooks.

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Posted by Michael Dunn
a resident of Cuernavaca
on Jul 18, 2014 at 5:25 pm

Laptops all day at High School. Not really the same as a College. In College you attend a set of atomic classes where students can measure if a laptop is needed and when.

Keeping a laptop fully charged and ready for in class assignments for the much longer High School day is a completely different sort of logistic problem.

Kids engage their homework continuously using home computers not sure what gap the school district hopes to close in the students learning. I might think twice about donating to the MVLA foundation if they have this much money to waste.

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Posted by Think
a resident of Waverly Park
on Jul 19, 2014 at 5:34 pm

I don't think this has been thought out well by the school district. By asking students to bring your own computer and then buying computers for students to use is a recipe for disaster. If you allow computers that may have viruses on the network then you will have the potential of most computers having viruses on the network. They'll need to add a few more IT personnel to handle this.
An initial investment by the MVLA Foundation and Google doesn't cover the cost of up keep on the amount of electronics being added to Los Altos High.

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