New Upper School Technology

Dear Parents,

We are pleased to announce that the Upper School 1-to-1 program will be continuing for the 2017–2018 school year. Last summer, Berman enhanced its WiFi, and during this past school year, Upper School teachers were able to utilize technology more extensively in their lesson planning. These changes have enabled our students to collaborate, create, communicate and manage information in ways that were simply not possible previously.

In order to enable and support this use of technology, the school invested in a heavily-upgraded school-wide WiFi network. From the student side, each student brought his or her own laptop or Chromebook to school on a daily basis, and the requirement for each student to have a device will continue for the 2017–2018 school year. Because the school uses Google Apps for Education, a relatively inexpensive Chromebook ($110-$150) is perfect, and there is no need for an expensive or heavy laptop.

Prior to the past school year, the school had maintained a bank of Chromebooks and iPads for student use. Unfortunately, much of what teachers had wanted to accomplish with the technology was hampered by the limited number of devices, the inadequate WiFi, and the time needed for students to log in and set up devices that are not their own. This past year, we found that our ability to leverage technology increased significantly once students maintained their own devices.

How can I purchase a Chromebook?

All Chromebooks do pretty much the same thing, and we are not recommending spending more than $150-$200. Decent Chromebooks can be found for as little as $110 on Amazon.

If you’re looking to save money, do not be afraid of buying open box items from established retailers such as Best Buy or refurbished items direct from the manufacturer. Often you can save $30 or more. (We would not, however, recommend buying a used device.)

We suggest choosing from a number of respected manufacturers, including (but not limited to) Dell, Lenovo, Acer, Asus, HP, or Samsung. Even some of the lesser-known brands like HiSense can be perfectly acceptable, especially for its low price. Please note that the Berman WiFi system will provide optimal support of 802.11ac devices; we encourage you to check the specifications for the device you purchase and look for this designation.

To help you purchase a device, we are providing links to Chromebooks at various retailers:

  • A selection of appropriate Chromebooks meeting the optimal network requirements, or search for all $100-$200 devices on Amazon
  • Search for Chromebooks at Best Buy
  • Search for Chromebooks at Walmart

If you feel this will be a financial hardship, we do have a limited number of Chromebooks available for qualified families; please contact Dr. Levisohn and he will be happy to discuss options with you.

For more information on what we hope to accomplish with these devices, or if you have questions, please view our FAQ online. Please also feel free to contact Rabbi Kuperman at kupermanj@mjbha.org or Miriam Zaghi at zaghim@mjbha.org with any additional questions.

Thank you,

Rabbi Jeff Kuperman and Mrs. Miriam Zaghi
Educational Technologists

Rabbi Avi Levitt
Principal

Rabbi Shimmy Trencher
Dean of Students



FAQ:

What are the benefits of each student having their own Chromebook/device?
Proper use of technology is shown to enhance student learning, and our teachers are excited to incorporate technology more robustly into their teaching. This past year, teachers and students adapted to the new environment, and teachers learned better and more transformative ways of using the technology. Training sessions are continuing with the faculty who have expressed considerable enthusiasm for the additional possibilities that these devices will bring.

Technology allows us to introduce new methodologies for communicating and teaching.

Examples include:

  • Commenting on assignments in real time
  • Providing feedback on essay content as well as the student’s writing process
  • Being able to highlight a gemara or chumash in the classroom
  • Facilitating more in-class collaboration between students
  • Allowing teachers to check for student understanding instantly and to modify lessons dynamically
  • Creating videos and using images to demonstrate understanding
  • Accessing primary sources online–without leaving the classroom
  • Restructuring the classroom: small groups, large groups, individual work are all possible
  • Differentiated instruction—in a multitude of ways—including multiple levels of assignments or multiple modalities
  • ‘Pushing’ documents, websites, and apps directly to students, in the moment

How will we be sure that students understand how to use and how NOT to use the devices?
We will review with students at the beginning of the year on how to use the devices, as well as how to incorporate them into the classroom. We also distribute an acceptable use policy that all students must sign in order to ensure that they use their devices properly and appropriately. Teachers will monitor student use and let students know when it is appropriate to use the devices and when they must be put away. We will continue training the students throughout the year.

How will the school ensure that the students won’t misuse the WiFi network? Will it be filtered, monitored, and/or restricted?
A separate, filtered WiFi network is now available for Upper School student use. To ensure adequate network bandwidth for educational purposes, students will be permitted to be online with one device at a time. Usage will also be monitored for security and safety purposes.

Is my child going to be more distracted in class by the presence of the devices?
When using the devices, teachers will have mechanisms for making sure that students remain on task and are not distracted. Part of our training for teachers will focus on these methods, such as circulating around the room, utilizing screen sharing technologies, and perhaps most importantly, designing interactive lesson plans that fully engage students. In addition, we as a school will continue to instruct and train our students to forego the possible distractions and focus on the learning in the classroom. Students already have possession of a variety of devices that give them internet access, and it is our goal, along with you as parents, to help students learn how to use them responsibly and in a disciplined manner.

In addition, the school’s wifi network will have filters to prevent access to inappropriate websites. A combination of enforcement and education should help our students develop the crucial skill of managing technology and their learning in an increasingly connected world.

Why Chromebooks?
Chromebooks are available at a much lower cost than are laptops, and their ease of use, as well as their seamless compatibility with Google Apps for Education, make them a great choice for our students. For those who already own laptop computers or who prefer a non-Chromebook device, PC or Mac laptops may also be used in lieu of a Chromebook (but they must be compatible with our 802.11ac network and have the Google Chrome browser installed).

Are the devices going to be used in every class?
No. We anticipate that they will be used on a regular basis, but teachers will only use the devices when they deem it appropriate and beneficial. There may be many classes and times when the teacher will instruct students to put aside their devices based on the goals of a particular class. We still expect students to analyze literature and Chumash, read a page from the Talmud, and debate issues with each other. The devices are meant to enhance the experience of learning but not to replace all of the traditional learning that continues to be valuable.

Why are iPads and other tablets not acceptable for use?
iPads and tablets run a version of the Chrome Browser that does not support many of the Google technologies that teachers will be utilizing. Students will be able to use these devices in school but will require a Chromebook or laptop as well.

If the students will be using their devices frequently, will that cut down on the time they will spend with their teachers?
Not at all. On the contrary, because Chromebooks allow for greater efficiency and opportunity for feedback, teachers will respond with personal feedback and have as much time or more to spend with individual students.

Aren’t students better off learning the traditional skills of note-taking via pen and paper?
More schools are moving towards this type of arrangement because it can enhance teaching and learning, it can help students learn how to use technology responsibly, and, at its best, it can transform the way that we communicate and think. To give you a better idea as to the various uses of technology in the classroom, you may want to view this video on the SAMR Model or read about how technology can be utilized at various levels to enhance and ultimately transform student learning. In many cases, students can, will, and should continue to utilize traditional note-taking skills, and teachers will guide them in these choices.