Laptops become indispensable learning tool

First slide

Every freshman and sophomore at Paul VI Catholic High School carries a laptop to class this year, as part of the school-sponsored laptop program. The program has two goals: "to enhance curriculum learning and to prepare students for the 21st century work environment," said Steve Latter, director of the Paul VI laptop program.

Paul VI students have welcomed the advantages of using laptops. "The laptops prepare us for our future jobs, and they save time," said freshman Peter Montwill. "Typing is much faster than writing."

"It's so cool," said freshman Christina Mastracchio. "I tell people I use a laptop at school."

During classes, Paul VI teachers use DyKnow computer software, a classroom management program, which allows students to view and take notes on their teachers' presentations. The program has a monitoring function for the teachers as well.

"Señora (Maria) Devlin knows how to work DyKnow really well," said Mastracchio of her Spanish teacher. "We can write on the worksheets from the textbook on the SmartBoard, and she shows video clips from the e-text (electronic textbook)."

"Mrs. (Christine) Collier knows how to block programs and lets us use the programs only necessary for class," said freshman Patrick Casey of his math teacher.

"The program itself is fantastic," said Latter "but it can be confusing when first starting." To get ready for this year's new laptop program, training for teachers and staff began in spring 2013 and continued through the end of the 2013 school year and again prior to the start of this school year. Freshmen and sophomore students attended training in June and in August 2013, as well as during the first weeks of the school year.

"For the most part, I am seeing students actively engaged in learning," said Mrs. Peg Weimer, instructional technologist. "Teachers and students in the English classes use Google Docs effectively. I am impressed at how some students are using split screens and utilizing the markup features in Adobe Acrobat."

As with anything new, the program has experienced its up and downs, sometimes literally. "One day, I was just walking down the stairs in the senior hallway and a laptop just fell on my head," said junior Juan Morantes. In fact, about one-third of the over 530 laptops purchased by freshmen and sophomores have been dropped and sometimes damaged this school year. Fortunately, most repairs are covered by a four-year warranty with four-year accidental damage insurance. The students, not the school, own the computers.

"I think, as a whole, the idea of the laptop program is great," said freshman Rebecca Skouby. "Having them in high school prepares us to be better situated in college."

© Arlington Catholic Herald 2014