By CHRISTY ARMSTRONG
Students at Cleveland Middle School were given laptops this past week as part of the Cleveland City Schools’ ongoing technology initiative, the BLADE Project.“BLADE” stands for "blended …
Students at Cleveland Middle School were given laptops this past week as part of the Cleveland City Schools’ ongoing technology initiative, the BLADE Project.
“BLADE” stands for "blended learning and digital enhancement,” and the school district is in the process of placing electronic devices into the hands of all its students.
Wednesday through Saturday, school staff issued Google Chromebook laptops to each of CMS’ nearly 1,400 students.
“They’re proud — and so, so excited to be getting them,” said Dr. Leneda Laing, principal of CMS. “We are looking forward to seeing what our teachers will be able to do now that each of the students has this technology.”
With parental consent and assistance, students were allowed to pick up the laptops to take home and use to complete homework assignments and independent study. As laptops are being issued to all students, those who do not have parental consent will still have their own laptops to use while at school.
During the school’s “laptop deployment” events, parents and students went through an orientation together over the laptops’ proper use. They also went through various stations to receive protective cases and more.
The school district had also outfitted each device with a variety of educational applications, as well as a special internet filtering program to keep students from accessing questionable content online.
“This will protect students anywhere they use the device, whether they are at home, at a café with public Wi-Fi or wherever,” said Andrew Phillips, director of technology for Cleveland City Schools.
Students who took home their new laptops will now be expected to take their computers with them to school each day — in much the same way students might carry a textbook to and from school.
However, these laptops are expected to offer students way more than a single textbook ever could.
BLADE Project facilitator Cody Raper explained giving students devices to access the internet means giving them more chances to explore what they are learning.
He and other school district staff also say this will help students learn how to use technology in a productive way. While many middle school students have cellphones, Raper said most are more acquainted with social media than spreadsheets.
“We want our students to be prepared for everything they have ahead of them — now and beyond,” said Raper. “At the end of the day, it all goes back to student learning.”
In an earlier phase of the BLADE Project, all Cleveland City Schools teachers were given Apple MacBook Air laptops and received training on how to lead students in using their laptops in the classroom.
Laing said she it was “very exciting” to see what students will be able to do with their new laptops. Already, teachers have shared with her their ideas for new in-class activities.
“Exciting” was also the word many students used as they received their new laptops. While many already have access to a computer at home, students like seventh-grader Sam Hackler said they liked having the opportunity to work “on the go.”
“This will make it so much easier to look things up and check on assignments, and I can do that anywhere,” Hackler said. “I think that will help us all kind of keep up with everything better.”
The next phase of the BLADE Project is to issue laptops to all of the students at Cleveland High School, following this first “pilot year.” By the time the 2018-19 school year begins, all of the city school districts secondary students will have laptops.
Plans are also in the works to incorporate more technology into instruction at the elementary school level.
“We’ve barely scratched the surface of where we want to go with this,” said Raper.
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