Cedar Valley Catholic School system purchases laptops for students

The Cedar Valley Catholic School system (CVCS) is giving its sixth through 12th graders MacBookPros starting in the fall of next year.

“Today’s students’ brains are wired for an interactive, engaging learning environment. One-to-one technology will create this environment,” said Jeff Frost, the Director of Education for the Catholic Valley School System. According to Frost, studies have shown that schools using one-to-one technology have increased student engagement significantly.

One-to-one technology proves to create an environment  that is not simply, “a teacher working and talking to the class, but teachers and students using an extra tool that makes class more of a collaboration,” Frost said.

The CVCS administrative team thoroughly investigated what was best for student engagement and learning and found that one-to-one technology is the most successful tool in schools and colleges tool.

A lot had to happen for this to be able to fall into place for these schools in Waterloo.

A lot of research was done and there were also professional development with the teaching staff for close to  two years, including summer technology institutes.

“You can’t just jump in and expect success without thorough professional development of your teachers to make sure they have buy-in and the tools necessary to make sure it is successful in the classroom,” Frost said.

This year’s professional development for teaching sixth through 12th grade is all geared towards one-to-one technology.”

Forty one schools in Iowa are now using the one-to-one technology with laptops. Cedar Valley Catholic Schools will now be the 42nd.

“It is not a trend but a necessity, in our mind, to take students to a higher order of learning and engagement,” Frost said.

Although a good number of schools are making the technological advance, Cedar Falls High School seems to be in no hurry to join the number of one-to-one technology schools in Iowa.

“It has been discussed, but there are no plans at this point [to go one to one], although Netbooks have made it possible because their price is so low,” Traw said.

According to Traw, the CFHS student to technology ratio is about three to one but over 95 percent of students have Internet access at home.

The district also has concerns about financing the laptops.

“If you invest for 1,100 students, you’re talking $550,000. That’s a lot of money,” Traw said.

According to Traw, that would force cuts in other places, although she said the computer labs are one thing that could go because students would no longer have a need for them if they each had a personal laptop.

Meanwhile, the ways Cedar Valley Catholic Schools are looking to pay for the purchase of the laptop computers are through grants, corporate funding, donations from individuals and other sources. The goal is to have a zero percent increase in tuition based on the laptop purchases.

Students are thrilled.

“I have even had seniors say they wish they had one more year of school so they could come back for it,” Frost said.

Columbus sophomore Alex Bernt said he is looking forward to the new computers. “It will be easier to organize things, but I think it will be kind of hard getting used to.”

Sophomore Haley Franke said she thinks more schools should move toward getting laptops for students.  “I think all schools in Iowa should do this because not every student has a computer at home that they can use to do school work, so having one of their own at school will really be beneficial to them,” Franke said. 

The computers will be purely for the students’ uses; they can even download their music and have Facebook.

As seniors, the students will even get the opportunity to purchase the laptops from the school for use after high school.  Every three years new laptop computers will be purchased and the old ones will be sold.

The students and faculty look forward to the fall when one-to-one technology will be practiced in every classroom. But as Traw pointed out, “Yes, technology is one way to engage students, but that alone will not make the difference.”

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