By the students, for the students. We want to be relatable, and we want to accurately represent the students of HISD. Anyone can submit – see the sidebar to learn how. Powered by the HISD Student Congress.
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.