Education News

Teachers Power Up Laptops for New School Year

This week students are heading back to class in Houston. And this year the Houston Independent School District is launching one of its biggest experiments yet.

This year getting ready for school means something totally different for some teachers. They have to learn to use brand new laptops. Their coach is Brittany Lewis.

“It’s a pilot for all of us, and so we’re all in this together, so the more questions y’all come up with please, please, please let us know.”

Veteran teacher Irene Rodriguez-Reyes immediately has a question about websites.

“We want to, you know, start of running with theirs. So it’s not going to be beneficial if the students don’t have access to some of those important sites.”

Lewis says that “honestly a lot of the stuff that you use, like, will probably be online stuff, web 2.0 stuff so of course they’ll have access to all of that, right. And I love that you want to hit the ground running that’s so exciting.”

This new pilot program is called “Power Up.” To start, teachers at 11 high schools are getting laptops. Then in January, their students will get laptops to use at school and take home. Superintendent Terry Grier says schools have to use technology because it’s here to stay.

“We have to be able to change what we teach and how we teach for kids to be successful in the 21st century.”

Brittany Lewis (right) coaching a couple of teachers on computer skills
Brittany Lewis (right) coaching a couple of teachers on computer skills

Grier’s turned to a trend in public education called “one to one.” It means every student has a laptop, tablet or other device. Schools in Katy and Klein have already experimented with this. HISD technology officer Lenny Schad says Houston wants to take it to a bigger scale.

“Our goal would be to get it down to middle school, that maybe we can get down to even third, fourth and fifth graders having cascaded devices that they can take home.”

That’s the goal. But HISD has already had to scale back the initial launch because of issues with its network infrastructure.

Money is another issue. Overall the district is spending about 19 million dollars to start the program. Part of the budget is for teacher training. Schad says that’s important because the program isn’t just about the device; it’s about changing instruction.

At Austin High School, teacher Irene Rodriguez-Reyes admits she was hesitant at first.

“Students do deal with technology all the time. They live by it, but I think when you pair something like education with technology it’s not always received the same way as a video game.”

But she’s done more research and training, and now those concerns have faded.

“I’m excited, I’m absolutely thrilled and I’m ready to go.”

Teachers being coached as part of the Power Up program


Laura Isensee

Laura Isensee

Education Reporter

Laura Isensee covers education for Houston Public Media, including K-12 and higher education. Previously, she was a staff reporter at The Miami Herald and contributed to South Florida’s NPR affiliate. Her work has also appeared in The Dallas Morning News, Reuters and Clarín in Argentina. Laura has won awards for...

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