Zephyr Cove high school uses technology in new lessons | TahoeDailyTribune.com

Zephyr Cove high school uses technology in new lessons

Jack Barnwell
jbarnwell@tahoedailytribune.com

ZEPHYR COVE — It's a new year at George Whittell High School — with a new bell schedule, new lessons, and new technology.

Students typed away on Wednesday, Aug. 26, in a computer science class, working on newly-acquired Google Chromebooks.

Seniors Quinn Kixmiller, Dusty Winter and junior Kai Mangiaracina all worked on coding a digital birthday card as part of their lessons.

According to Crespin Esquivel, Whittell's principal, the computers are part of Whittell's one-to-one technology program.

All high school students received a Chromebook on Aug. 17, the first day of school, which allows them to collaborate with one another and teachers during lessons.

And it reflects Whittell's goal to teach "digital citizenship," or how to responsibly interface in the 21st century.

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"Students can do their lessons in ways that can challenge [them] to be critical thinkers," Esquivel said.

Kixmiller said the Chromebooks have worked well so far.

"I think it's great to take the Chromebooks home to do your homework on them and then come to school the next day and have your work right there," Kixmiller said.

He said the largest hiccup has been keeping the Chromebooks charged.

Whittell uses Google Classroom. Students have their own Gmail accounts and use Google Drive for collaborative sharing.

The district received a $432,000 private donation to pay for the implementation.

Eventually the school will use Google Hangout video service, but for now the bandwidth has to be tested to make sure the feature can be handled.

Should Hangout be added to the toolbox, it would enhance the one-to-one technology initiative by adding connectivity.

"We want to move beyond the device and have that collaborative atmosphere," said Mark Kuniya, professional development manager at Whittell.

Teachers also use a Promethean board, an interactive digital screen. This allows more collaboration between students and instructors.

Douglas County School District is using Whittell as a pilot school for the one-to-one tech program. Kuniya said the district will eventually implement the program in its Carson Valley middle and high schools.

"We're working out the kinks," he explained.

Esquivel expects a learning curve for students and teachers alike, but added it's the only way forward.

According to Esquivel, he expects his teaching staff to be fully prepared in case the wireless network goes down.

"It can't be the same way we've been doing in the past," Esquivel said. "We need students to be problem solvers and get them ready to start careers and college."

He said the world is smaller now and a lot of other countries have a competitive edge when it comes to certain careers.

Another component of the one-to-one technology initiative includes properly navigating the digital world.

"Any student can Google anything, but this teaches how to be literate on the Internet," Esquivel said. "Teaching students how to empower their learning is going be the focus."

Students will also learn to track their own digital footprint, and be mindful of what they post.

"If you think about it, you can't take back something once it's posted on the Internet," Esquivel said. "We have to talk about that subject every day."