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Writer's Room => Research => Topic started by: MFHarrison on August 19, 2016, 09:04 AM

Title: Tech use in high schools (esp. CA)
Post by: MFHarrison on August 19, 2016, 09:04 AM
Hi! I am writing a book set in the extremely near future (less than 10 years from now) about a girl who has been raised with zero exposure to the internet or any electronic device with a screen. (She's in a sort of cult.)

My plot requires her to go to Berkeley High School, where she's confronted with the necessity of using technology. But I haven't been inside a high school since 1986, so I'm wondering about the extent of tech use, especially in an urban California school system.

I'm especially interested in how students are expected to use computers/devices IN CLASS. For instance, does quiz/test taking happen electronically now? (No more ScanTron?) Are students expected to do in-class assignments using laptops/iPads? Are they expected to use cellphones? Are there circumstances when use of such devices is limited/banned? Do most class lectures involve Smart Boards?

I'm assuming students are expected to write their assignments electronically, but do they usually submit them that way, too? (BHS seems to use Moodle, though the website has links for only a few classes right now.)

I plan to consult a local teacher, but my area is not the most tech-forward (rural state, poor broadband coverage), and I don't know any teachers on the West Coast. So any info from people with recent HS experience would be hugely appreciated! Thank you in advance.
Title: Re: Tech use in high schools (esp. CA)
Post by: Pons on August 19, 2016, 10:44 AM
My SIL teaches high school (southern CA) and I have grandchildren in high school. The schools around here typically have as many smart boards as the district can afford. Lacking a smart board, they use white boards. The students submit electronically (at least in English, which is what my SIL teaches) and some of the schools have gone paperless, meaning all their textbooks are online. Students are pretty much expected to have ipads or tablets or they can check one out from the district.

Our city also has a digital inclusion plan for students, which supplies them with a free, refurbished computer from the city if the student takes a four week course in basic computer use.
Title: Re: Tech use in high schools (esp. CA)
Post by: Sue G. on August 19, 2016, 11:03 AM
My son is in 11th grade in a public high school in Hatboro, PA, a suburb of Philadelphia. When he started high school in 9th grade, the district issued Chromebook laptops to all high school students and now they are branching off into middle school as well.  Students pay a small insurance fee each year and keep the Chromebooks all school year and take them home to do assignments. They return them at the end of the school year and the same laptop is issued to them again when school starts back. Students also have the option to purchase their own Chromebooks and waive the insurance fee.

My son completes most all his classwork and homework (with the exception of math and any worksheets a teacher may give)  using the school issued laptop. The district uses Blackboard and Google drive for assignments and student assignments are shared with teachers electronically through Google drive.  Occasionally, teachers will ask for assignments to be printed out and my son can usually print at the school library. 

One thing that is very different with doing assignments with the technology is that some teachers will have unusual due dates and times for assignments outside of the school day.  For ex. a couple teachers have asked for assignments to be "shared" electronically by 8 pm or midnight on a Sunday!  Took some getting used to at first. Also, students have to be careful to check Blackboard even a couple hours after school lets out for the day to be sure they got all the assignments posted by the teachers. Some teachers do not announce homework in class and students are expected to check Blackboard after school hours for assignments. But my son loves using the laptop and by saving assignments to Google drive, there are no lost documents like when saving to the desktop.  Getting and sharing assignments in this way also makes it easier to keep up and catch up with classwork when students are absent and it's great for students to collaborate with each other on projects and studying. It's been a great experience for him.

It makes me smile to see him sitting outside by the school entrance using his laptop to work on homework on days while waiting for me when I pick him up from after school clubs.

They also use Smartboards and document cameras in the classrooms for all of their courses.   

Hope this helps and best wishes with your ms!  Sounds interesting!

Title: Re: Tech use in high schools (esp. CA)
Post by: Vijaya on August 19, 2016, 11:48 AM
Margot, I think you're going to find quite a huge variety. My kids go to a Catholic high school and no cell phones are allowed during class time. We have to purchase our own books and some of them can be on an electronic device but most students prefer the textbooks even if they are heavy because of what they can see on a 2-pg spread. Flipping through pages is a heckuva lot easier than scrolling. The kids use email/phone/Google drive to share documents on shared projects. And typically, the English assignments are turned in online AND on paper. Grades/homework can be assigned electronically or on paper. I don't check the parent portal at all. I figure by the time kids are in high school they should have ownership of their education.

I know a lot of homeschooled students and some don't use any electronics and others are plugged in just like everybody else. What's interesting is how quickly they catch on. My kids had no TV/video games for the first 10 years of their life and we watched movies together and gave them more access on the computer as they got older. Except for showing them basic skills, they are self taught and my son has surpassed me in all electronic things, including things like music/video editing, etc. In fact, they've had to teach me how to use FB (I'm a relative newcomer to this).

Whereas I use the computer as a tool, for them it's both a tool and source of entertainment. But they are more attached to their phones than they are to the computer. We have two family desktops and a laptop that's MINE :grin3 

I grew up without screens of any kind until I came to the US at the age of 14 and I can tell you that even though I'm a heavy user of things electronic, I don't have the same attachment as many folks I know. If tomorrow the magnetic field reversed and every electronic device fell apart, I'd be fine with my old fashioned paper and pens.

Good luck with your writing, V.

Title: Re: Tech use in high schools (esp. CA)
Post by: dewsanddamps on August 19, 2016, 11:59 AM
Yes to the weird due dates. Our kids have had a number of things assigned on a Friday, and due on Saturday or Sunday night--which messes up the concept of a weekend.
Title: Re: Tech use in high schools (esp. CA)
Post by: Sue G. on August 19, 2016, 12:06 PM
I agree that it is easier to see the whole text using the actual book instead of having to scroll through online textbooks, Vijaya!

Also wanted to add that my son takes some of his tests using his laptop in class but his math is usually paper/pencil and seems like some of his physics and chem tests were also on paper.   Students mostly have their laptops on their desks and they use them throughout the day.  When they are finished assignments, they can use their laptops for their own writing and to do research and surf within the parameters of the acceptable websites. Our district does a lot to keep social media sites and blogs and other sites blocked so kids can't get onto Facebook and stuff on the laptops. Cell phones have to stay in their backpacks and they can request a pass to use them if needed.  Some teachers give permission for cell phones in class when they are able to take photos during a project.  Others have allowed students to take photos of sample problems in class for studying.  Some of my son's teachers invite the students and parents to receive cell phone messages from the teacher with updates on assignments, projects and tests. These are helpful. 

Most of my son's textbooks are electronic.  His history book is huge and he can keep it at home to study and just use the electronic in school.  Others are the other way around and they can access shared copies of texts in class and electronic at home.  Miss the hard copies of texts like we used to have. 

Good luck!
Title: Re: Tech use in high schools (esp. CA)
Post by: Sue G. on August 19, 2016, 12:09 PM
Yes to the weird due dates. Our kids have had a number of things assigned on a Friday, and due on Saturday or Sunday night--which messes up the concept of a weekend.

I know!  Kids need their downtime/family time.  Strange to have homework due on a weekend.
Title: Re: Tech use in high schools (esp. CA)
Post by: RebeccaL-G on August 19, 2016, 05:24 PM
Things are moving very fast in school technology.  I am in a CA elementary school. Just last week we got a brand new hot-off-the-press language arts curriculum that is highly dependent on technology.  Students can not only access the entire textbook online and write their answers online, they can also read aloud and have their readings recorded for the teacher to check and calculate fluency.  Teachers can teach directly from smart board lessons created to go along with the textbook.  Lesson planning now takes one click for a teacher with this program.  Testing is online, though not as comprehensive as the state online tests that require a great deal of writing and interacting with digital tools.  The days of book reports are gone and the student-created power point is in.  One-on-one technology is now a necessity, not a luxury.  Parents can access all student grade records online.  Teachers can message all participating parents with one message entry in special programs that don't show the teacher's text number.  It's a brave new world.
Title: Re: Tech use in high schools (esp. CA)
Post by: David Wright on August 19, 2016, 06:14 PM
My daughter had one teacher last year that wouldn't take anything electronic and one that wouldn't take anything on paper.

Ten years is a long time though. Remember, the first iPad was only 6 years ago. The first commercially available smartphone running Android was released in 2008. Google didn't even own Android ten years ago. Odds are, laptops won't be around.

The big question is what teaching will be like. There's a real push around here that the kids teach themselves, turning the teachers into a verification system--a resource the students use to make sure they taught themselves the right information. One school board is talking about ending all sports that have community based options since extra-curricular involvement has dropped substantially. In the end, the differences between distance education and in-class learning are becoming less obvious. Plus, the whole SOLE movement is gathering momentum.

It's almost easier to guess a hundred years away.
Title: Re: Tech use in high schools (esp. CA)
Post by: alison-ching on August 19, 2016, 07:14 PM
I'm in Texas, and I work in a middle school, not a high school, but here's some stuff that will hopefully be helpful:

My district uses the 1:X model, and each student gets a district-issued iPad beginning in 4th grade. All of our textbooks are online except for math. I think quizzes and tests are primarily done with pen and paper, but most daily grades and major assignments are done online, generally through Google apps. Our district wifi has filters installed for use on district devices, but if kids have their own phones (and most of my students do, as the school is in a rather affluent neighborhood) and data plans, they can basically access whatever they want at school, which, as you can imagine, is great fun to monitor  ::).

As others have mentioned, it varies a lot. This will be my third year in my current district, and in my previous district, they had just gotten around to issuing one iPad per *classroom* right before I left. That district still relied primarily on desktop machines in computer labs, while my current district has laptops issued to classrooms, as well as a laptop cart in the library. So there's not really one universal standard for everyone.

I have noticed that while my students do almost everything on their iPads, when it comes to reading, they prefer paper. I read way more ebooks than they do!  ;D
Title: Re: Tech use in high schools (esp. CA)
Post by: MFHarrison on August 20, 2016, 10:13 AM
Thank you so much, everyone! This is fascinating and terrifying. Well, to my character more than to me, since she has been raised to believe that looking too long at a digital device (let alone interacting with one) will addict her, rewire her brain, and potentially kill her.
Title: Re: Tech use in high schools (esp. CA)
Post by: Debbie Vilardi on September 01, 2016, 08:19 AM
But technology addiction is a thing.

I'm in NY.

Yes to school supplied computers and digital assignments with nearly instant grade reporting. There are no blackboards or white boards except the electronic ones. The teachers use e-boards and programs like Edmodo for assignments. The disctrict has been switching to Office 365 this summer. We'll see what impact it has. Think about how self driving cars and buses or Google Glasses might impact schools as these things evolve. Look up cutting edge school tech on the Internet and see what's listed as on the horizon.

Game culture is also coming into play (pun intended) in our schools.