Dulaney adapts to new technology

(Graphic/Katherine Schutzman)

(Graphic/Katherine Schutzman)

Katherine Schutzman, Editor

This September, Dulaney students and teachers swapped out their school-provided HP laptops for Chromebooks. The majority of students had their HP devices for years, some since middle school. And while the functionality of these laptops was frequently belittled, after becoming acquainted with their Chromebooks, students and teachers alike wish that they could revert back to the times of HP.

When polled, an overwhelming majority of students agreed that they preferred the HP laptops to the new Chromebooks. The Chromebooks, while shiny and fresh out of their packaging, came with unwelcome surprises. These devices are not compatible with Microsoft applications, meaning that popular tools such as Microsoft Word and Powerpoint can only be used as online platforms. In many cases, they must be replaced by Google Drive resources like Google Docs and Slides. In addition, the keyboards of these new laptops lack Caps Lock and Delete keys, which caused initial bewilderment for many students.

“It seems like the county’s attempt to spend less money and give us crappy laptops while claiming it’s for the betterment of our education,” one anonymous student said. “With these new computers everyone is lost and it’s entirely counterproductive.”

Matthew Lovett, Dulaney’s technology liaison, can sympathize with both the county’s perspective and the student body.

“I think the Chromebooks make financial sense from the county’s point of view…they are a lot cheaper,” he said. “I think that a lot of issues that we’re having are, teachers are doing things that they did previously that students could do with the HPs that they’re not able to do with the Chromebooks.”

Tech interns David Guan and Sania Kala noted how students in various levels of computer science and other tech-heavy courses have struggled to run necessary programs on the new computers. They’ve also encountered multiple instances of uninformed students looking for help operating their Chromebooks. 

“The county likes to do a one size fits all for everything,” said Lovett. “Like, ‘we’re doing this in every single classroom and we’re giving every student one single type of computer’, when they should really try to meet the needs of specific programs or specific groups.”

Accompanied by the transition to Chromebooks was the introduction of interactive OneScreen whiteboards. Many teachers and faculty were less than pleased with the way that the switch from long-used projectors to the screens took place.

“I was not prepared for the transition,” English teacher Deborah Hamilton said. “I was given two or three days warning it was coming but I didn’t know exactly when and I didn’t know why and I didn’t know what technology would be taken away or how to use it.”

The abruptness and lack of communication that accompanied the OneScreen whiteboards caused a panic for teachers who were given minimal instruction on how to use the new technology. This resulted in lost planning periods and class disruptions as teachers struggled to operate the whiteboards

“I think if somebody’s spending money to have a company come and install these boards, it would have been really nice for them to ask the teacher who was in the room where the board should go,” said Britta Schaffmeyer, one of many teachers who was confounded by the hasty switch.

To facilitate the transition to OneScreens, it seems as though the county pulled money from the student device budget and put it towards the whiteboards. The screens are roughly $1500, whereas the projectors cost several hundred dollars. However, the county hopes that the OneScreens will last for up to 10 years – four years longer than their six year warranty – making them worth the investment.

It easily could have been predicted that multiple technological transitions taking place in the midst of the school year would cause issues for students and teachers. While both the Chromebooks and OneScreens may have their downsides, there is hope that both will prove to be valuable investments that can be used for the betterment of education in BCPS.