There is an interesting development at Beverly High School in Beverly, Massachusetts, north of Boston. According to this June 11 story in the Boston Globe, each student at the school has to fulfill a new requirement in order to attend classes.
The project dates back to a new $80 million “educational wing” for the school, reported a year earlier in the Globe. Back then, Superintendent James Hayes Jr. declared that “newer technology would be fully integrated into the classroom when the building opens. With WiFi serving the entire school campus and smartboards in use in the classrooms, Hayes said students would be required to use a laptop in class.
‘To us, it opens a whole new world of instruction, and frankly it’s a world that many of these kids are living in already,’ said Hayes, who has yet to create a laptop policy and has not determined whether it would be the student’s or the district’s responsibility to provide them.”
The policy has now materialized. Parents have been informed that every student must use an Apple MacBook in his and her work. No PCs allowed. Only MacBooks are compatible with the new network in the school “where wireless computer access will be a key component to learning.”
They cost $900, though, and some parents have rebelled. The school has responded by offering low-income families “free or discounted computers,” while others can lease MacBooks at a monthly rent of $25. The rest can use MacBooks for free during the day while one campus, but they can’t take them home. The school will provide an “on-site Apple tech center” to provide support and troubleshooting and loan computers to students whose laptops need repair. Unfortunately, the school hasn’t found any foundations or donors to underwrite the program, even though the laptop program has been two years in the making.
Whether laptops actually improve academic achievement remains an open question, and whether this program is worth the price remains to be seen. But Beverly High School is helping make an announcement by Apple a few years back as part of a back-to-school campain to promote the MacBook. Take a look at this photo. It’s a display in an Apple store of five laptops on a white shelf with books on shelves above and below. But the books are fake. They are mounted on photo flats. When Apple proclaims, “The only books you’ll need,” it means the MacBook.