PowerUp teachers get tips for implementing laptop use in instruction

Teachers and administrators from 21 high schools that are joining the PowerUp laptop initiative in the 2014-2015 school year have spent a chunk of their summer getting ideas as to how to best implement the program in their classrooms.

Eleven schools were part of the pilot program last year. They received help from the Mooresville Graded School District, which experienced great success in a similar program, and officials from Mooresville returned to Houston to help the second batch of schools.

“The PowerUp initiative puts technology in the hands of the kids and allows students to be reached in ways that we’ve never been able to do before,” said Scott Smith of Mooresville GSD.

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The program involves issuing a laptop to every student, and those laptops are used in the classroom and at home.

“It’s not about the technology,” Smith said. “The technology, of course, gives us exponential potential in terms of things that we’ve never been able to do before, but the focus is not the technology. Teachers need to rethink their instruction, they need to rethink how they use their toolset now in their classroom.”

“It’s about the learner, how students can learn better, how we can prepare them better for their futures and for their careers,” said Beatriz Arnillas, a senior manager in HISD’s instructional technology department. “The big revolution is we’re asking teachers to think about how to do the teaching and learning environment in a way that they never experienced themselves.”

Smith said the program gives teachers a direct connection with every single student, which allows for personalized learning.

“The kids are already on board. We’re already talking about it on my campus,” said Brandi Lira, a teacher at Eastwood Academy. “We’ve talked about it all year long, telling them what’s coming and what to expect.”

“It’s been great finding out what’s out there, what’s available, and how we can enhance what we’re doing,” said Chris Banks, a teacher at Wheatley High School.

All of the district’s high schools will participate in the laptop program by the 2015-16 school year.