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Kalani underclassmen relish their new laptops


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POSTED: Monday, October 05, 2009

Kalani High School has found an innovative way to keep students interested in learning by integrating technology into the classroom.

An initiative called the One-to-One Student Netbook Program put nearly 590 laptop computers into the hands of nearly all ninth- and 10th-graders this year.

The program, with a goal of assigning one laptop per student, was not mandatory, but 98 percent of the students enrolled, school officials said.

“;We were a little concerned about student engagement and trying to make learning relevant for our kids at the high school level,”; said Kalani Principal Gerald Teramae. “;The topic came up of how we can use technology to enhance classroom engagement for the kids.”;

The underclassmen signed a three-year lease for a Lenovo 10.2-inch Netbook for an annual $300 fee, which covers cost, software, tech support and insurance. Netbooks are a small, light, inexpensive laptop computers.

While many parents complained they could buy a laptop at Best Buy for $199, Teramae said that it would cost almost 10 times as much for the entire package, including software. It was the best-priced package out of three proposals, a school official said.

“;I think that was a real selling point for a lot of parents,”; he said. “;The center of what we're trying to do at Kalani is develop these 21st-century learning skills. The computers are just a tool to get to our goals and expectations.”;

Some of the software includes Microsoft Office 2007, Adobe Photoshop, which is priced at $700 by itself, and DyKnow classroom monitoring software so teachers can see each student's screen.

The laptops were distributed in the second week of school, and students have been glued to their keyboards ever since. Those who could not afford or refused to participate in the program will receive alternative assignments, Teramae said.

“;What I really like is that we have student pride and ownership,”; said tech coordinator Aimee Niwa. “;They protect it and make it their own.”;

The program is still working out some bugs. Connectivity has been a problem on the wireless campus as the school expanded from 250 to nearly 900 computers. The Department of Education's technology branch, along with commercial companies, is trying to solve the connectivity problem, before the One-to-One Initiative expands schoolwide next year.

“;It's like we're pioneers of the Old West and blazing through unfamiliar territory,”; said tech coordinator Ryan Tusuda. “;There's lots of challenges and roadblocks that we have to forge through.”;

Lisa Hayashi teaches social studies to freshmen and sophomores at Kalani, and assigned students to make a movie with their new computers.

“;There's minor setbacks, but overall the technology has been a good supplement in class,”; she said. “;At the end, most of the kids were able to make a pretty good movie.”;

She also noticed a distinct behavior change since the laptop initiative rolled out.

“;They're actually more quiet. Before, it would take a while for them to settle down, but I realize lately I don't have to nag them to take things out. They already have their laptop out,”; she said.

Schools Superintendent Pat Hamamoto visited the high school last month to observe the laptop initiative and its effect on students.

“;As I was going to the classes and watching the students and teachers interact with it, I thought this was really great that we're embedding technology to the courses,”; said Hamamoto. “;What I saw was 21st-century competency in very concrete learning situations.”;

Sophomore Lisa Liang uses her laptop every day and likes the midnight deadline to submit homework online. Liang also finds the program convenient since she does not have to worry about bringing a notebook to school.

“;You don't have to worry about running out of lead,”; she said.