HNS teachers, students will both benefit from technology upgrades

HARTINGTON — Hartington-Newcastle Public Schools will be taking the leap into 21st century education techniques this fall with the implementation of a range of new technology for teachers to utilize in the classroom.
The biggest change students and parents alike will notice is the introduction of a one-to-one program.
HNS technology coordinator Cody Stappert said this new program will bring in 130 Chromebook laptop computers. Each Chromebook will be assigned to students in grades 7-12 during their three-year leasing period with them.
Stappert said the laptops will give every student a way to access the internet, and teachers will be able to assign homework and administer tests immediately to all students with near-instant feedback.
If a student finishes a 20-minute test with randomized questions to prevent students from being able to copy, a program will check the answers and input the student grades into the grade book almost instantaneously.
With the processing power of a computer, teachers will also have access to more test data than they may have previously had. The same grading program will also be able to notice trends, such as commonly missed answers. Stappert said this access to new data will allow teachers to focus on specific topics and subjects with which students may be struggling.
“I think teachers will find out that convenience factor is really nice,” Stappert said. “There will be so much more data for teachers to look at.”
HNS 7-12 Principal Corey Uldrich said the seventh and eighth graders will also receive Chromebooks, but only high school students will be allowed to take them out of the building. The Junior High students will need to check them in at the end of each school day.
Before making the decision to  adopt the new one-to-one computer policy, administrators talked to several other area schools already using the plan. They also toured Ponca, which just recently adopted the one-to-one program.
Stappert said the main benefit of switching to a one-to-one program is it prepares students for the 21st century working world. With data becoming a $25 billion industry and evidently the most valuable resource in the world, the world is more connected now than ever and there’s no signs of that stopping.
Stappert said giving students exposure to the technology they’ll be using in the future is something every teacher should strive to do. He said he tries to challenge himself and his students to incorporate technology as much as they can into the classroom, their homework and even in the day-to-day tasks of their lives.
“Every job, doesn’t matter what you do, has you working with a computer,” Stappert said. “We’re not teaching the kids for today, we’re teaching them for tomorrow.”
The Chromebook is built around the Google Chrome internet browser, so much of the students’ work will be done through the different applications on Google Drive. Stappert said HNS will continue to teach Microsoft office, even if the laptops won’t have those features.
“Again, that exposure to different platforms is important,” Stappert said.
An advantage the Chromebook has over other devices such as the Apple Macbook Air or the Microsoft Surface is its convenience. A Chromebook can go from being completely shut off to on functioning in eight seconds, whereas some laptops can take upwards to two minutes to start up. Stappert also said they self-update in the background, meaning there’s no waiting and there’s no need for antivirus software.
Stappert said this speed means students and teachers don’t have to waste any class time waiting for all their computers to function, a problem they’ve faced in the past.
“You only have 47 minutes for a class,” Stappert said. “If that happens a couple times a week, you’re loosing that instructional time.”
Each laptop will be connected to GoGuardian, a special software used by schools to monitor individual user activity and filter out inappropriate content, so parents need not be concerned about students misusing their devices.
Uldrich said GoGuardian also keeps track of the location of each device, meaning students losing their Chromebooks won’t be a problem. Even theft doesn’t concern him, as GoGuardian gives administrators the power to cut off internet access and shut off the screens of a com