Laptops start going to grateful Chandler High students - SanTan Sun News SanTan Sun News

Laptops start going to grateful Chandler High students

January 31st, 2022 development
Laptops start going to grateful Chandler High students

By Ken Sain, Staff Writer

Chandler High School students were excited to be handed a new laptop computer last Wednesday as the school district was joined by Intel Corp. and Dell in beginning another step toward bridging its digital divide.

We finally get better access to the Internet because the other computers are slow,” said sophomore Ryland Douglas.

All Chandler High students are getting a laptop courtesy of a pilot program by Chandler Unified School District, Intel and Dell. The school district bought the laptops while the tech giants are contributing $1.6 million in tech and program support.

“Students are the big winners with this partnership,” said CUSD Superintendent Frank Narducci. “Learning doesn’t stop when final bell rings at the end of the day. Providing laptops and connectivity will go a long way to help us bridge the digital divide.”

Students couldn’t agree more.

Fellow sophomore Abigail Hernandez said those new laptops will get a workout.

“Like, every day,” she said when asked how often she will use her computer. “I like to check my papers off online, so it will just make everything easier.”

Josh Newman, Intel’s vice president of mobile innovation, said Intel has been trying to improve the access students have to computers for decades.

“We kind of weren’t having the resonance that we needed to have in terms of changing learning outcomes,” Newman said. “So two years ago we kind of switched our focus … from access to learning outcomes.”

School officials said it became obvious during the early days of the pandemic –when students were learning from home – that access to the Internet varied. Even families that had a good WiFi signal had trouble with mom and dad working from home and their brothers and sisters also trying to log in to do their school work.

And some students just did not have any access to the Internet.

As part of this pilot program, a limited number of laptops are equipped with LTE to give the student access even if there is no WiFi signal. The district planned to hand out 200 of them and have another 100 in reserve when officials find a need.

In all, school officials are handing our more than 3,600 laptops to their students and teachers. Each laptop is etched with the school district’s logo. Parents can pay $25 to protect themselves if the computer is damaged while assigned to the student.

Nearly 400 of the laptops have more processing power. Those were given to students who do more work with videos, photos or graphics.

“I’m really excited to just have the one-to-one program, for every student to be on the same page.” said senior Malasia Hardy. “So there’s no, like, ‘Oh well, I can’t afford a laptop, but they can, so I’m struggling with my work more than this person.’”

The CUSD Governing Board voted in October to spend $2.95 million to purchase the laptops.

Intel’s Newman said he’s already heard from other districts and state officials wondering how soon they can expand the program so more students can take advantage of it.

He said they are in phase one of the pilot program now with the handing out of the machines. Newman said they expect phase two to start this summer, which will be Intel and Dell defining the software and services they can add to the laptops before they are handing out again in the fall.

“At that point we hope … to create a blueprint that we can take to other districts and other states and say this is how we can change and transform education.”

One Chandler High teacher says this program should help.

“Literally, a world of difference, a world of difference,” said physics teacher Chaylee Chan. “We have so many students who have so much drive for their education, and know that education is going to be their biggest tool to the life they want to have and to create generational change within their families, but they don’t have access to this technology on their own.”

Dean of Students Renee Clancy said the students will help take care of the laptops. They’ve created a room called “The Hub” in the school’s library. The plan is for it to develop a certified class where students will be able to address many of the tech issues their peers may encounter.

Chan said she believes they will learn a lot during this pilot program.

“The biggest lesson learned, I think, is going to be what do we need to supply beyond the devices,” Chan said. “The devices is a big hurdle to get over. … But it’s really only step one in a very long process.”

She said a major step in that process is making sure all the staff know how to take advantage of the new laptops to enhance their lesson plans.