MILO, Maine — Shane Emery had his new MacBook Air laptop computer open amid the french fries, little milk cartons and slices of pizza at lunchtime in the Penquis Valley High School cafeteria.
The 18-year-old senior from Milo was among 108 high school juniors and seniors to receive MacBooks on Wednesday, and he said he couldn’t wait to see what the new machine could do.
Another 66 MacBooks went to Milo Elementary and Brownville Elementary schools and Marion C. Cook School in LaGrange that day as part of a $146,000 school purchase.
The purchase puts a laptop in the hands of all RSU 41 students in grades seven through 12 for the first time in the school district’s history, Penquis Valley Principal Matt Hackett said. Previously only freshmen and sophomores had them at the high school.
“Now students don’t have to sign up to use the library or reading lab computers, which took a lot of time away from them,” Hackett said.
“It is a major hindrance if half the students don’t have laptops issued to them,” Jobs for Maine’s Graduates teacher Shannon Bishop said.
Delivered Wednesday, the new computers will allow the school to lessen usage of the older models in the computer labs, Bishop said.
Teachers say that they probably won’t encounter many of the problems that typically come with school computerization, namely, students using social media such as Facebook instead of doing schoolwork in school and the computers being ignored at home in favor of machines already there.
The schools employ software that limits social media usage, Hackett said, and several students estimated that close to half of their classmates have no Internet access at home.
Sixteen-year-old sophomore Michelle Heath of Milo said that students use laptops in as much as 65 percent of their schoolwork. Many type notes rather than write them, Heath said. Teachers, Bishop said, are encouraged to maximize computer use in classrooms.
Students still use their laptops in class to wander the Internet, Bishop said, but “part of what we have to do as teachers is learn to guard against that, keep an eye on what they are doing.”
“We have to set them straight on our expectations,” Bishop said.
Teachers commonly employ software that furthers lessons, and they coach students on good Web research techniques. They hope to illustrate to students everything they might need computers for in the work force or college, Bishop said.
As part of her classwork, Bishop teaches students how to type resumes, search for jobs online and fill out electronic job applications.
“Kids have been on these long enough so that they can teach us teachers some things,” Bishop said.
Emery and his friend, 15-year-old sophomore Jessica Preble of Milo, like the new computers.
“These are pretty awesome,” Preble said, “but they are so small.”