Brownwood school administrators met with Brownwood High students and parents Tuesday night to explain rules, safety precautions and security steps being implemented as part of the program that will place a laptop computer in the hands of every student.
It was the first of four such programs being held this week and next in the Dorothy McIntosh Fine Arts Center Auditorium at Brownwood High School.
“What does this program mean?” Dr. Reece Blincoe, superintendent, said in introductory remarks. “It means we’d better start preparing our kids for their future, and not for our past. We must teach them not to come up with the right answers, but to come up with the right questions.”
The program opened with a video showing that, among other things, the top 10 jobs today did not exist in 2003, and that by the time today’s teenagers are 38, they will probably have held 10 to 14 different jobs.
“We need to create a school of the future,” Blincoe said. “Teachers have moved from being givers to facilitators and now collaborators of information.”
Texas is moving toward an educational system where the lines between middle school and high school are being blurred, and as well as lines between high school and college. Soon, he said, it is conceivable that high school students will receive their diploma with enough college hours for an associate’s degree.
The program was designed to explain to parents what is expected of them and their students, and to distribute laptop agreements and handbooks. The audience at Tuesday’s meeting responded with applause at several points in the program, but questions were fielded from some parents about why a $50 annual user fee was being charged when taxpayer funds were used to purchase the computers, why students who already have a laptop must participate and why students who don’t want a computer can’t opt out.
Blincoe said he would be willing to discuss the program’s concept with individuals at his office rather than take time from sessions devoted to questions about implementing and managing the initiative.
Assistant Principal Andy Gill discussed the basics of the parent and student agreement. Plans for security, especially for students who may not go home before heading out of town on extracurricular activities, were outlined, and reduced user fees going as low as $20 — as well as the option of making payments over time — were announced for qualifying families.
“The rollout date for the computers will be in two to three weeks,” Gill said. “We’re still working on bandwidth. The rollout will be by grade, and the agreement must be turned in with the fee before a student will be eligible to receive the laptop.”
A tech room has been created where students who don’t want to take their computers home overnight can be stored.
“But I’m going to encourage you to take them home,” Gill said. “You’re going to enjoy using this.”
School officials said they understand that students will want to play music and access Facebook and YouTube sites, and they won’t prohibit that outside class.
Technology director Edward Yantis said the school district has acquired filtering software that will protect students from accessing inappropriate sites, but he encouraged parents to monitor the computers’ use. He said everyone who has a computer need to become informed of the dangers lurking in cyberspace.
Blincoe said the computers are being loaded with specific educational programs the teachers and students will use, along with other security programs that will help in the recovery of any stolen machines. School officials will also be able to monitor the type of sites the computers access.
“Programs on this machine are very unique,” Blincoe said.
He described how teachers will upload class assignments, and when the students brings them onto campus, the system will recognize who they are and download those assignments without prompting from the students.
“We are moving to a day when there will not be textbooks,” Blincoe said. “It will all be electronic. We’ve asked our teachers to the largest extent possible create lesson plans on this computer. It’s going to take us time. Please bear with us.”
Students whose last name begins with A to I were asked to attend Tuesday. Other meetings will be held from 6 to 7 p.m. Sept. 8 for last names beginning with J to Q; and from 10 to 11 a.m. Sept. 10 for those whose names start with R to Z. An open meeting is set from 10 to 11 a.m. Sept. 12. If the assigned date is not convenient, parents may choose a different one.