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Not Everyone Needs an HISD Laptop

Photo illustration by Kate Ham, HSPVA 2016

Photo illustration by Kate Ham, HSPVA 2016

Anonymous, Bellaire, 2016

On paper, the PowerUp program sounds great. Bringing technology into the classroom, lessening the amount of stuff students have to carry by digitizing everything, and allowing disadvantaged students to use technology to enhance their learning. But the program is far from perfect.

At Bellaire, most people are distracted by the laptops during lectures. When given the freedom to use their laptops to take notes, many students instead choose to start playing games, or to browse off-topic websites. Some people are easily distracted and will obviously choose an exciting, fun flash game over a long, drawn-out lecture.  A class full of distracted students ignoring every lecture can’t be a good climate for learning.

Harsher filters may stop some of the most popular games and websites, but creative students will always find something that slips under the radar. Training teachers to sweep around the room and make sure that all of their students are focused may be a solution, but this would take away from potential instructional time.

This issue is likely just a symptom of a far bigger problem. In my social circle, the laptops are seen as a wasteful extravagance and are generally not taken seriously. Many people participating in PowerUp at Bellaire are relatively well off and already have a computer and multiple other electronics at home. These people tend to ignore the potential of the program and  misuse the laptops. Realistically, giving laptops to people who are already capable of bringing their own electronics to school is a futile effort.

Because the PowerUp program is just rolling out, its primary goals can still be changed. Rather than attempting to provide everyone with a school issued computer, it should instead aim to provide as many students in as many schools as possible with an opportunity to enhance their learning with technology. Laptops should be limited to those qualified for free and reduced lunch, and the initial deposit should be waived. This would limit the number of laptops needed at each school and make it easier to expand the program to greater numbers of students who are actually in need of computers. The total cost of ensuring that all students in HISD have access to technology would be drastically lower.

No doubt the role of technology can still be expanded in the classroom. This proposal is simply a way to reduce the wastefulness of the PowerUp program and more effectively bring access to technology to those who need it most.

2 comments on “Not Everyone Needs an HISD Laptop

  1. Angel Chavez
    March 2, 2015

    I see your point, but there are flaws in it. Having only a select few would take away the idea of “equal education”. School should have equal opportunity for all students and not be completely specialized to a certain few. I know such things as Vanguard, National Honor Society, Magnet, and many other programs, award, and nominations take away the idea of equality, opportunity, and that each student is as good and smart as the next. Still something like laptops that can be carried around would mark the student as someone who was originally not equal and that does two things:
    One, that makes the student feel embarrassed. “They gave me a laptop because I’m too (poor, not smart enough, etc.)”
    Two, other students might feel that they should have gotten a laptop and when they didn’t they might think that the system is broken or ignoring them.
    Which brings in the big flaw about that laptops should be limited to those qualified for free and reduced lunch. It’s a sign that you’re poor. That the school had to provide for you because your parents could not. It may not be intended to be taken that way, but that is how most parents are going to feel when they find out that their kid got a laptop because he had free/reduced lunch.
    Because the thing is, students who have free/reduced lunch are anonymous. Teachers and students don’t know who have free/reduced lunch. The laptop points out the student and let’s him be ostracized.

    Although, the whole Power Up thing IS a problem. It’s not taken seriously and from what I hear doesn’t even have a decent firewall that can stop tech freaks like me to disable, go around, and generally have fun with the school’s security systems. Honestly, the entire thing is a bit laughable and I get the feeling that most students look at it as a joke.

    Which brings the problem as to what do we do with it. We can’t throw the laptops away, we probably can’t replace them since HISD has a contract. What do we do with it? I have no idea. I think HISD has dug itself a hole that is too deep to get out of.

    But hey, I’m a senior. I only have to deal with it so much before I go to college so in a few months I can say “Power Down.”

    • Gal Egozi
      September 9, 2015

      I see where the problem came from and I totally agree with you. I am currently a senior in Bellaire High School.
      I took AP computer science last year, and literally half of the students played games on their laptops.
      I think everyone should get a laptop, but teachers should use it as a tool. I am currently in Mr. Newland’s Physics C class, and he uses what I think to be the best approach. Leave our laptops closed for the maximum amount of class time, and only open them when it is absolutely necessary.

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