STERLING – It looks like the days of using a writing utensil and a pad of paper are coming to an end at Sterling High School.
Beginning in the fall, students will be able to use, at home and at school, an 11-inch Apple Macbook Air.
“Right now, texting or using smiley faces that are winking is the best way [students] know how to communicate electronically,” Principal Jason Austin said. “That is not going to get it done when they graduate high school and go to college, a trade school or get a job. They will have to use the computer effectively and respectfully with adults and peers.”
School officials say giving students the laptops will improve academic engagement and achievement. It also will help them use the Internet and digital media to communicate and work cooperatively.
Students say they are excited to get their hands on the computers.
“It will definitely help me with my homework,” said Gage Sheley, 15, an incoming junior. “It will be the only laptop I’ve ever had. To have my own computer will be pretty sweet.”
Jonathan Abele, a sophomore, said having a laptop will redefine the classroom experience.
“With the added use of technology, we will be able to access our schoolwork online,” the 15-year-old said. “I will be able to take notes, write papers and all that stuff.”
Although the computers are loaned to the students at no charge, families are being asked to pay $50 per school year for insurance, which covers theft, burglary, accidental damage, vandalism, fire and natural disasters.
Students who choose not to pay the $50 will be responsible for the full cost of any damages, up to $1,003, the cost of each computer.
If the computers are damaged because of negligence or irresponsible behavior, families will have to replace them, regardless of the insurance.
The district will pay Apple $1.2 million over 4 years for 1,100 laptops; the money is coming from the Dillion Foundation.
Pornography and social media sites will be blocked by the Web-filtering system iBoss.
Penalties for not having a charged computer, downloading or sharing inappropriate files or using the computer for social media during the school day range from a warning to a loss of Macbook Air privileges.
Students will not be punished for sites they visit at home.
“iBoss will scan the kids’ search history,” Austin said. “If there are a bunch of red flags, we are not going to punish a child for what they did at home. We will just let parents know.”
Austin said it’s up to parents to watch what their students are doing.
“Parents are supposed to use their normal rules that applies to the students using the Internet at home,” Austin said. “Seventy-two percent of our parents and students reported last year that they had computers and Internet at home. Those same rules apply when students bring their computers home.”
Each student’s Internet protocol address will be computed into the Apple Remote Desktop, so school officials can track what students are doing on their computers.
“We will know what we are seeing, based on their IP address,” Austin said.
The laptops will be switched out every 4 years. They can be sold back to Apple, but Austin said he wants to offer them locally first.
Students will get the computers, power cords and a computer bag bearing the Arthur’s Garden Deli logo the first week of school.
“Arthur’s Garden Deli covered the costs with donations for the bags,” Austin said. “We will make sure students are carrying their computers in the bags in the hallways.”
Some of the girls have asked to use their own bag, but “you can’t use a different bag,” Austin said with a smile. “We ask that you use this bag. It may not match every one of their outfits.”
To get a computer
In order for students to receive a computer, parents and students must attend an hourlong summer computer orientation. Sessions have been taking place at the school since early July.
Visit www.sterlingpublicschools.org/shs/ for more information or to sign up for a session.