Reyburn Intermediate School
The Reyburn Intermediate School is located in Clovis, California. The school is one of five intermediate schools, which includes grades 7 and 8, in the Clovis Unified School District. The articles below provide insight from the school's technology coordinator and two year 7 teachers as well as multiple year 7 and 8 students.
Necessary Changes--Exciting Opportunities
By Debbie Allee, Technology Coordinator
When the doors of Reyburn Intermediate School first opened nearly ten years ago, I accepted the challenging opportunity of teaching 7th grade Academic Block (literature, language, and history) using laptops. Reyburn is a school encompassing students from many different cultural and economic backgrounds. Using a variety of funding sources, the principal of our brand new school purchased 700 laptops to be used in 7th grade. It was a glorious vision: every 7th grade student would have a laptop to use while attending literature, language, history, math, and science classes; students who paid a $75 insurance fee could take the laptop home evenings and weekends; and every student would carry the laptop from class to class, using their computer to deepen their understanding of the curriculum. We started slowly, with students learning to take care of their computers and use basic software applications while keeping the laptop only in their Academic Block classes. After a few weeks, we began the process of allowing students to transport them from class to class, a daunting task for 700 students. It was chaotic at first and required some adjustments to our expectations, but eventually we settled into a routine.
We learned a lot that first year: not all of the students paid the $75 insurance fee, so not every student was able to continue working on computer-based assignments at home; many of the students who did take the computers home used them to play games and they downloaded unnecessary programs on them, which caused multiple problems on the computers; because the students did not own the laptops, they did not treat them as responsibly as they should have, and the parents did not reinforce proper care because they had not made a large financial investment; students who lacked responsibility caused damage to the computers; and a small handful of laptops disappeared completely due to theft.
We began to formulate necessary changes to the laptop program and over the next few years, implemented the following structure which is still in place: 1.) Participation in the laptop program is optional. 2.) Students and parents have the opportunity to purchase a laptop of their own that is used every day in most classes. These students are enrolled in academic courses where the laptop is a tool used by all of the students in that class. Laptop classes are offered in both 7th and 8th grades. 3.) We have about one-third of the students in each of these classes who use a school-owned loaner laptop. 4.) The school-owned loaner laptops remain at school. Students save their work to a USB memory key which they take home to continue their assignments on their home computer (a requirement for being in a laptop class). 5.) My job position changed so that I now serve as a Teacher on Special Assignment overseeing the technology program at our school.
Although the actual numbers of students participating have decreased from our first two years of 100% involvement, the next seven years have shown a steady increase in the percentage of students joining the program. Parents who have had students in the program in the past generally want to have their younger children participate when they reach intermediate school age. Students also see the value in using a laptop as well as an improvement in their school work. Teachers who have taught laptop classes don't want to teach any other way.
As the program coordinator, I have served as a site-wide resource for staff development, meeting with teachers to train them in the use of numerous software applications and to support them when they have questions. I also teach demonstration lessons in laptop classes. We have several laptop carts available and a thin-client lab that teachers can use to provide technology instruction for their students. I am available to team teach in non-laptop classes when the teacher wants to provide technology instruction integrated with the curriculum.
Getting as many students as possible involved in a technology-rich program has become a driving force at Reyburn. With continued support from our district administration, we will be able to improve our program and offer more opportunities for our students. With the involvement of a creative team of teachers, our program will continue to evolve in exciting directions.
The Ultimate Hook
By Becky Maldonado, 7th Grade 1-to-1 Academic Block Teacher
Ten years ago, when I was told I would be teaching 7th grade literature, language, and history to laptop students I was hesitant and anxious because my own computer skills were minimal. Today, I can't imagine teaching any other way. Curriculum delivery through laptops is the "ultimate hook" to keep middle school students engaged in their own learning. Each week my students are learning through a variety of laptop activities. The following is a sample list of what they currently are engaged in: check my web page for assignments and downloads, create a range of documents from newspapers to poetry, complete teacher created web quests, build a knowledge background through selected educational websites, use online versions of the textbooks, read publisher created chapter outlines with crossword puzzles and flash cards, create PowerPoint or Photo Story presentations, and e-mail me on-line self check quizzes. I realized a laptop gives equal access to all when one of my English Language Learner (English is their second language) students shyly stated when reviewing her work, "I never knew I was this smart." I've also never heard a student mutter the phrase "this is boring." I love my job!___________________________________________________________________
An Amazing Learning Tool
By Alison Gaede, 7th Grade 1-to-1 Science Teacher
Using the laptop computer in Science is a wonderful and amazing tool. As a teacher I use my laptop to help me find current and relative material so I can then engage students in learning the state science curriculum. As a student, laptops provide the opportunity to have the world at their fingertips. Whether students are using Microsoft Excel creating graphs from their experimental data or doing research about endangered species, the laptop computer certainly makes learning fun and easier while students are completing their task at hand.
My students learn curriculum by creating a labeled plant or animal cell using Microsoft Paint, keeping a record of their academic progress by using Excel, or surfing the net using an award winning site which helps them learn what a cell really looks like or what mitosis mitosisis all about. Virtual labs, tests and quizzes are even more appealing when viewed on-line, especially when there is instant feedback that provides students with a quick assessment of their performance and understanding.
As a laptop teacher, it is always exciting to see students empowered at that moment they understand how to create a graph from their experimental data or utilize their new found discernment for finding the most accurate, current information on-line in order to complete Powerpoint projects. Students who learn how to use their laptops as a valuable tool will be able to use these computer skills for the rest of their lives.
1-to-1 Student Perspectives
Kaleigh C., 7th grade student
The laptop program at Reyburn Intermediate is a new and fun way for me to expand my education. I believe laptops help take the education of a child to the next level because as a laptop student I feel more like a professional learner. Professional learners stay organized and research topics or assignments. We create new projects and documents, and use the class website to always stay connected. Sometimes we get distracted with something online, which I know is a problem.
My two favorite assignments that I have done on the laptop are both from my Academic Block class. One of them is a literature assignment that we do weekly in class called Idioms. This assignment is an exciting way to help students learn about language so that it can be used in daily life.
Laptops have really helped students at Reyburn intermediate reach their expectations. For me it is such a wonderful chance to advance my education and to actually have fun doing it. I hope that every child gets to have the chance to enjoy this opportunity.
Brittni B., 7th grade student
Being in the laptop program gives us, as students, many more opportunities. Without excess papers and hand-outs, we are able to keep all of our work on our laptop. This helps in staying organized and getting work turned in on time. Not only does the laptop program help with organization, it helps give us new ways of learning. We learn to use new programs and the Internet gives us the resources we need to do assignments and projects. Being in the laptop program is a great experience. We are able to do a lot more "hands-on" activities and many different projects and assignments. In this program, we have taken the simple "paper and pencil" to the next level.
Jenna S., 7th grade student
As a student, I can honestly say that my laptop has served as an important tool in my education. My laptop isn't a portable distraction that keeps me from completing my work. In fact, it's the opposite. Recently, I have used my laptop for my science, literature, history, and language classes. I have done everything from completing online science labs to finding definitions of words to typing lecture notes. With my laptop, I can complete homework, research for projects, and download assignments off my teachers' web pages. Altogether, I am very glad that I am in the laptop program because it has had a positive effect on my schooling.
Elizabeth R., 7th grade student
Being in the laptop program is a great experience. Having the opportunity to work on a computer instead of by hand makes schoolwork so much easier. The interactive sites and assignments teachers require are much more interesting than any book assignment. I don't have my own laptop so I use a classroom laptop. Using a classroom laptop is another reward ribbon advantage; it means that I can use a computer in class and not have to carry it across campus. All of these characteristics show how rewarding this program can be, but to me, being in the laptop program means completing work more efficiently and better.
Hannah S., 7th grade student
I think it is great to be in a laptop class because we have more opportunities than when we are in a regular class. For example, we can keep all of our work saved neatly in files on our computer instead of stuffing papers in our backpack with them getting all crumpled up. Another reason is because it takes less time to type a document than it does to write by hand. The last reason is because if a teacher needs to show the class something on the computer, the students can just pull it up too.
Laptop Learning Changes Achievement Standards for Students
By Zachary C., 8th grade 1-to-1 Student
The reason I enjoy the laptop program at Reyburn Intermediate is because we can focus on our education by using technology. We have the opportunity to be able to use the computer more as a tool than a media device. As a student in CUSD, I believe that district leaders should not be satisfied until all students in middle school and high school are in laptop classes. After being in elementary school for 7 years, I can honestly say that the laptop program is more affective then normal classes. If, for example, I forgot to write in my daily planner for plannerAcademic Block, I can easily access my teacher's website from my home. Also, research for a project is a lot easier. Instead of going through books in class, we use the web which is a lot more effective since we have more resources. Another great thing about the laptop program is that you stay organized. Instead of shuffling around for papers in your backpack, you can easily access your assignment without the mess and havoc. This alone would help a lot of students I know be more affective.
There are a few challenges when using a laptop. Along with their laptop, every student needs to bring their power cord and memory key. If this is not done, the student may get punished with a warning or detention. Another is carrying around your laptop everywhere. In middle school we move from class to class everyday. The average student in a laptop class carries two bags: their normal backpack with books and binders and their laptop bag. Some carry sports bags as well. Carrying multiple bags everyday can be a challenge! Besides that, there really are no obstacles to participating in our laptop program. Probably the best thing about learning in a laptop class is the assignments because they are not the usual worksheet assignments. One assignment that I did earlier this year was a product project. For the assignment, we had to create an item that would sell on the market. Requirements for this project included creating a sales contract, a service contract, a warranty, product information rundown, and instructions for using the object. We also were required to present our product to the class. We had the option of using any type of presentation we thought would best sell our product including a simple oral presentation, a Powerpoint, or a video. It was amazing to see all the creative ideas from all the students! Almost everything, except for the actual object, was made on the computer.
I think that non-laptop students should take the opportunity and become laptop students. If they can't afford a laptop, then we should provide them with a loaner laptop. I believe that laptop learning can change the achievement standards for many students.
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