Central’s New Tech, does it Technically Help?

Forget carrying around hardcover, heavy textbooks, this year at Champaign Central High School, you may have seen students walking around with a new kind of textbook; a Chromebook.

New this year, each student at Central has a Chromebook, equipped with a case and charger, for all their learning needs. They can carry it around to all their classes and use it whenever is needed. It seems like a blessing, a flawless new way of going about school; but not everyone feels this way.

When asked what she likes about her Chromebook, Bobbie, a senior at Champaign Central, said “There’s not a lot. I guess it’s just nice to have with you. For example, when you’re going to lunch, if you needed to work on something, you could really easily. You always have that access.”

When Bobbie was asked what problems she has with her Chromebook, she had much more to say. “Everything is blocked. You can’t even do anything on it because everything is just blocked. And I think they’re invasive. Teachers can see anything you’re doing. Like the Hapara thing, that’s really invasive.”

Hapara, a program where teachers can essentially make it impossible for students to be on any tab but the one with their classwork on it, has aggravated many other people at Central as well.

Ms. Dietz, an English teacher at Central High School shared her insight. “I don’t actually ever personally use it. Mostly because, I ain’t got the time to spy on y’all. I do have a co-taught classroom, my co-teacher uses it, and it has been helpful in the sense that a lot of people in that class like to watch movies, so it’s nice to block them from doing that. So far it’s worked out well, but again, we have that relationship piece. I do think it’s an invasion of privacy in some ways.”

The biggest issue for Ms. Dietz though, is the fact that students now take the Chromebooks home. “So, last year I had my own Chromebook cart, and it was the most glorious thing in the world, because I could make sure everything was in order. I assigned everyone an individual Chromebook so I knew who used the Chromebook, I always knew where it was, I always knew it was charged. You have the problem with it not being charged… that’s an issue.”

Mr. Kelly, the High School Educational Technology Coach for Central, gave some information on the reasoning behind some of these aspects of the Chromebooks that students and many teachers do not understand. A big topic was again, the Hapara program.

Mr. Kelly explained how teachers should use Hapara to try and prepare students for college and focus their learning. “We try to train our teachers on the usage of Hapara. We’re having discussions right now about what it means freshman versus senior. I think Hapara utilization usage should be different as you get older. I think the growth you show as a student should also be reflected in the way that we use Hapara.”

Another topic that Mr. Kelly touches base on are blocked sights and how they keep students safe in multiple ways. “A lot of it has to do with our network security and some of it has to do with content related to the safety of students. People can hack into our network and get student information and teacher information and that privacy is really important for our district. So that’s usually something that we can’t negotiate about, we can’t get around, we have to block sites unfortunately.”

Overall, the new system put in place with Chromebooks at Central is a controversial one, but its sole purpose is to help. “One of the things I think is the most important aspect of it, is just allowing students to use technology in ways they haven’t been able to use before,” Mr. Kelly said. “But then also just the idea of them having the Chromebooks at home and what that can mean for students to catch up on things that they’re missing, to extend the learning outside the classroom space, those are all things that can happen.”

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