OAKLAND, Neb. — Zach Ahrens and Jenna Bromm look a little different than the students of yesteryear.

Neither student could be seen toting a huge armload of paper-stuffed books as they walked down the hallway of Oakland-Craig High School.

Instead, each student carried a thin MacBook Pro laptop.

“You don’t have to carry around as many books anymore,” Bromm noted. “A lot of our books are online.”

What’s more, the electronic devices help seniors, who are taking dual credit classes, and better prepares them for college.

Oakland-Craig Public Schools has updated its technology in more than one way for the 2016-17 school year. This year, every senior has a MacBook, while all underclassmen in grades 9-11 have Chromebooks. Students can check out these devices and take them home. That translates into more than 30 MacBooks for the seniors and 90 Chromebooks for those underclassmen, said Rusty Droescher, O-C junior-senior high school principal.

“Basically, it’s moving us into a new age of education,” Droescher said.

The Fremont Tribune (http://bit.ly/2ccTovg ) reports that the electronic devices allow for a professional direct line of communication between students and staff. Teachers can post videos of lessons, homework can be turned in electronically, discussions and chats can occur.

Droescher said the devices help students in various ways.

“We’ve increased opportunities for them, such as online classes and dual or college credit,” he said. “Virtual field trips can now be taken by our students at any time. Research for career education and experience is more enhanced by the devices these students now have.”

Droescher said a filter protects students from inappropriate sites on school property and when they’re at home with the devices. Malfunctions or things such as a broken screen are taken care of, he said.

“All we ask is a $25 insurance payment at the beginning of the year and even if it’s stolen, it’s replaced,” he said.

Ahrens and Bromm, both seniors, are seeing the advantages of having the devices.

“It’s helped me a lot, because I’m doing a lot of dual credit classes, so if I can’t have a computer at home but I have Wi-Fi, I can still do my homework for the class,” he said.

The devices help with research. If Ahrens can’t find the information he needs in a book, he can search for it using his laptop.

Ahrens is taking college classes in psychology and accounting, while Bromm is taking one in biotechnology.

Bromm believes using the MacBooks will help her in the future.

“It’s a great tool to get you prepared for college,” she said. “A lot of people use laptops in college and a lot of things we use are on CANVAS (a learning management system). A lot of people do that in college.”

“It’s getting us ahead of the game,” she said.

Students in Oakland-Craig’s elementary school are moving into 21st century learning as well.

Last year, the elementary school purchased a cart with 20-25 devices for each grade level. Each grade level has two sections. For instance, there are two kindergarten classes. So it has one device for every two students.

The school has iPads (tablets) for children in grades kindergarten through third. Students in grades 4-6 are able to use Chromebooks.

Unlike devices used by students in upper grades, those used by elementary pupils don’t go home with the children. (Surveys indicate that most already have devices at home.)

At school, such devices do provide opportunities for children to create.

For instance, students can write and illustrate a digital storybook. They could create a sock puppet play, said Jessica Bland, O-C elementary principal.

“We have a group that creates our weekly newscasts using a green screen and they do all of the editing and write the scripts on a device,” Bland said.

There have been other advantages. For example, students seem to want to read more.

“They’re much more apt to read, because they have that book on a device,” Bland said. “We see a lot more homework being done when it’s assigned through a device.

“Kids have grown up with that,” she added. “These kids have had a device in their hands since they were 5 and younger. So that’s the world they grew up with and we have to adjust our teaching style to meet their needs.”

Administrators also are using technology, communicating through CANVAS.

“We’re really trying to hit the professional development, practicing as a staff, but also giving them the tools they need to be able to teach with the new devices,” she said.

Droescher also noted another technological advancement for Oakland-Craig.

“We now have a new phone system in the high school building, which also serves as an intercom system,” he said. “We’ve never had an intercom system before the 2016-17 school year. . Before, the intercom system was me running down to a classroom to pass on some information.”


Information from: Fremont Tribune, http://www.fremontneb.com