BLADE Project student laptops expected soon

By CHRISTY ARMSTRONG

Posted 11/8/17

The first students who will benefit from the Cleveland City Schools system's BLADE Project for technology will likely receive their laptop computers in January. Andrew Phillips, supervisor of …

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BLADE Project student laptops expected soon

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The first students who will benefit from the Cleveland City Schools system's BLADE Project for technology will likely receive their laptop computers in January. 

Andrew Phillips, supervisor of technology for the district, gave the Cleveland Board of Education an update on this during its recent meeting. 

BLADE stands for "Blended Learning and Digital Enhancement," and the school district hopes to promote learning by having a ratio of one computer for every student. 

"One thing we're going to focus on is instructional strategies for students at home," Phillips said. "Students will get to take their laptops home." 

BLADE  will eventually allow students in all the city schools to have access to computers during school hours. Students in middle or high school will have the option to take theirs home to do homework and other independent work. 

Cleveland City Schools is in the process of purchasing approximately 1,400 Dell Latitude 3380 Chromebook laptops for the students of Cleveland Middle. Phillips said these will be "piloted" there this spring, with laptops being issued to Cleveland High School students in the fall of 2018. 

Phillips showed one of the devices to board members, including the laptops' protective cases. Insurance is also being purchased for the devices.

All students will have access to the computers at school, and taking them home will be optional. Parents would sign waivers taking responsibility for making sure the devices are not lost or broken, and pay a $25 home usage fee each semester. 

"This money will be put back into the program," Phillips said, suggesting it could be used to buy extra devices or provide scholarships for students whose families cannot afford the fee. 

This first set of laptops for middle schoolers will be leased for 30 months, at which time they will be returned to the company. The plan is to "refresh" the laptops every three years, replacing the older ones. 

As it focuses on adding more computers in schools, the district is also improving internet access. With more students using the internet, improvements are needed to make sure the wireless signal is faster, and available when needed. 

"We're running new fiber-optic cable at all our schools," Phillips said. "We are also adding 117 more [internet] access points. We'll finally be 1-to-1 in terms of access points in classrooms." 

Teachers are already being trained on how to use these computers in the classroom and lead activities. The most recent training has been on how to use the Google software products students will be able to access on their Chromebooks.

Phillips said special emphasis is being placed on helping teachers find ways to account for the fact students may not have home internet access.

While taking the laptops home will be optional, this plan could provide the kind of access to technology students from low-income households might not normally get at home. School officials hope having this access will allow students to become more skilled in the use of technology.

Dr. Russell Dyer, director of Cleveland City Schools, said the idea of the BLADE Project is to teach students about technology, while promoting its use in learning about other subjects. 

"We've been planning this for a long time," Dyer said. "There may be some hiccups at first — as there always are — but I think we've got a great plan in place." 


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