Hello students, welcome to 2018. All state testing is done online, on computers. Sixth-, seventh- and eighth-graders have never known a world not inextricably wired to the internet. Yet there’s a deficit in availability of technology at Carpinteria Middle School.
Carpinteria Education Foundation has launched a new initiative to remedy the glaring need to provide greater access to laptops in CMS classrooms. CEF, the nonprofit that fundraises for local public schools, is committed to providing 60 more Chromebooks to the school and is encouraging community members to step up and pitch in to erase critical gaps in access to technology.
The price tag for 60 new Google Chromebooks is $18,000, and CEF will match up to $9,000 in community fundraising to reach the full cost of the laptops.
“The school district identified the area as a critical need to get Carpinteria Middle School up to speed with technology in the classroom,” said Casey Balch, Board President of CEF. “It’s an urgent, unfunded need that wouldn’t otherwise be provided.”
CEF will accept mail-in donations to P.O. Box 9, Carpinteria, CA 93014 or digital payments through carpedfoundation.org. Donations sent with “CMS tech” on the check or as a note on a PayPal contribution will add to the total amount matched by CEF. The deadline to contribute is Dec. 20, the start of Winter Break.
Carpinteria Unified School District Superintendent Diana Rigby lists preparing all students for college or career readiness as the district’s chief goal. “You will not be ready for college if you do not use digital tools,” Rigby said. In identifying the need to upgrade access to technology, Rigby stated that some computers are currently available, but not enough to meet the demand for today’s classroom. “It’s about creativity and communication,” Rigby said. “I heard one example from a biology class, where students are learning about cells, and then they use their laptops to actually create virtual cells as part of a multimedia presentation. It allows students to be much more three dimensional and to create products that lead to a much higher level of learning.”
Specifically what the $18,000 fundraising effort will achieve is providing two more computer carts at CMS. Teachers currently share four carts of 30 computers and have two computer labs to access. On a daily basis, the flow of computers is decided by whoever signs up first. When state testing season comes around, the scheduling hurdle is steep to make sure all students get time to test.
CMS language arts teacher Marith Parton said access to computers is essential in her lessons. “It allows students to self-edit. They can use Google, spell check, Grammarly and other add-ons,” she said. When students turn in reports, grading can be done in real time, and the students access teacher comments in their digital classrooms. Their acquisition of course material gets a boost because they’re writing reports, pulling images from the web and accessing multimedia material that’s familiar to today’s learners.
Social studies teacher John Fowler counts on computers in the classroom to provide access to materials that target each student’s level of learning. Content can be curated for lessons and paced for individual needs.
Bringing the way students learn up to speed with a world gone digital is a challenge facing classrooms everywhere. Textbooks remain a primary resource, but the advent of interactive spaces like Google Classroom have forever changed the ways teachers organize lessons and students interact with curriculum. CMS Principal Lisa O’Shea said across all grades and subjects, technology is no longer an accessory to learning or a novelty that provides neat but ultimately unnecessary support to instruction. Access to technology is a primary need and an integral part of every classroom every day.
Adding two more Chromebook carts into circulation at CMS will be a big step toward meeting student needs, Rigby said. “We have about 120 laptops at the middle school now. We need about 500. Every cart and every computer helps us reach our goal of closing the gap. Computers now are almost like borrowing a pencil in the work world. Students need digital tools.”