Technology at BHS is Lacking and Lagging
by Yannis Lam
In the Braintree Public Schools system, there are various electronic devices available for student, teacher, and administrative usage. Laptops, desktops, projectors, and Elmos can be found across many of the classrooms in the school system.
However, at many times, the user experience can be inconsistent and incomplete. Students, teachers, and administrators at Braintree High School experience multiple unexpected delays and restraints, encountering inconsistency when trying to accomplish their academic goals. Due to the various firewalls and restrictions restraining the school computer systems, there are many educational activities that cannot be accomplished.
Almost every classroom has a computer, equipped with a projector and various other electronic devices. The use of the computer has become an integral part of classroom lessons and many teachers in the school district have depended solely on the use of their computers to teach. However, many times a day, the older computers lag and freeze. Often, while waiting for a website or PowerPoint to load, teachers and students lose critical learning time. The majority of technology at Braintree High and within the Braintree Public Schools System is unreliable, outdated, and an inconvenience that everyone must deal with. Several interviews were conducted with teachers in Braintree High to inquire their opinions on their experience with the school computers.
In the Braintree High Media Center, there are twenty eight desktops and twenty three netbooks. There are also three Nooks. According to Mrs. Smith, the desktops “work very well for the amount of usage that they get.” However, “the netbooks sometimes have trouble accessing the network” and the Nooks “work fine.” Although this may seem like a lot of technology, the amount of use it gets suggests the need for more.
Last year, there were 827 classes held in the Media Center. 21,717 individual visits were made by students during the school day. During the 2012-2013 school year, there were 3052 individual netbook uses. Only once in the four years that Mrs. Smith has been a Specialist at the Media Center, there was an instant that she had to report a student for misusage of the computers.
In the summer of 2012, the desktops in the Media Center were replaced. Before that, “the computers were about the same.” Mrs. Smith stated that “the other labs were about the same” in experience. Overall, she thought that for all of the times that the computers were used, they were fine. In addition to the daytime uses of the Media Center computers, they are used after school as well. Some nights, classes are held in the Media Center for the explicit usage of its computers. Impact testing, a requirement for athletes interesting in joining certain sports, also requires the use of the computers. Teachers also reserve computers for extra help sessions after school. Throughout a normal school day, the Media Center is packed with students using the computers.
Mr. Krall, Social Studies teacher at Braintree High School is in charge of the keys to Computer Lab 321. In addition to that, he often uses the computer in his own classroom (Room 330) to teach lessons. Three out of five times per week, he uses his projector to help him teach his students. His projector sits on a cart that is wheeled around the front of his room, which he declared as “not ideal” for his teaching methods. Due to his heavy usage of his projector, Mr. Krall indicated that “the wires are a problem” as the loose connection with the computer produces changing colors at times and the wires pose a tripping hazard to his students and himself. Mr. Krall also stated that he personally experiences unexpected hiccups with the network connection every few months and claimed that his personal computer was “comparable with others in the building.”
In regards to his experiences with Lab 321, he commented that at times, “there was not enough computers” for his students to use. Additionally, these computers are quickly becoming outdated. For the past six years, the hardware and software in Lab 321 has not changed. In the past six years, three new operating systems (Windows Vista, Windows 7, Windows 8/8.1) have been released by Microsoft, while the computers remain on Windows XP, first introduced in 2001.
Computers play a crucial role in the Braintree Public School Systems. Whatever happens to them depends on the usage and treatment of the students and teachers. Why is it that in the Media Center students are using computers that are two years old, while in Lab 321, students are using computers that are twelve years old? How are students expected to excel in technology, when the software and hardware provided by the schools system as numerous limitations? Why should teachers be forced to wait while their computers unfreeze and reconnect to the network, before teaching the next topic or slide? What good will some new computers be to Braintree High, if the majority of the computers were designed and bought when teachers were still students and students still toddlers?
In the future, as more and more teachers and students are incorporating technology into their academic strategies, it is important for the Braintree Public Schools to reevaluate and consider a simpler and more unified technology learning system. If Braintree does not change the way how all of its technology is used, it will fall behind in testing scores and state academic rankings.