The bookshelves dotting Gina Bludau’s English classroom contain some big names: Austen, Dickens, Bradbury, Shakespeare, Webster.
However, the freshmen students in her classes at St. Joseph High School also have the chance to work with slightly more novel technology than the classics of the printed page.
Bludau’s students, along with the rest of St. Joseph’s freshmen class, are a part of the school’s new program that gives students laptops they can use at home and at school.
Starting this school year, each incoming freshmen class will get a laptop, owned by the school, allowing students and teachers to be more creative and cutting-edge in class, according to Principal Megan Schott.
During one of Bludau’s classes in August, students used their laptops to answer questions about a short story.
As each student answered the discussion question, their answer popped up on the teacher’s monitor, allowing her to give feedback and start discussion in real time.
These discussions, around literary devices and the author’s rhetoric, were an example of how the Chromebook laptops combine the utility of technology with the importance of more traditional instruction.
“I don’t think anything can replace the human interaction,” Bludau said, while calling the laptops a “lovely convenience.”
They allowed her to see her students’ answers while also keeping them private from the rest of the class, so she can choose which ones to highlight and see which students could use a nudge in the right direction, as well as gauging students’ participation.
“Everyone has something to say and a valid comment to make,” Bludau said.
The laptops are particularly convenient for writing in class, she said, because now she doesn’t need to reserve any laptops or move her class to a computer lab for students to have access to word processors.
Schott and Bludau both mentioned how having the laptops gives students an added responsibility to take care of their devices.
One of those students, freshman Jayden Adames, said he likes having constant access to a computer.
“It makes it more efficient to do homework at home,” he said.
Of course, the laptops’ usefulness to students after school is limited if a family doesn’t have access to the internet at home.
In 2021, a study sponsored by the city of Victoria found significant parts of the city were underserved with broadband internet access, which was particularly problematic during the early stages of the COVID-19 pandemic.
At that time, when its classes were still remote, St. Joseph provided Wi-Fi hot spots to students who needed them, but Schott said the school had not gotten any requests for hot spots so far this year.
Similarly to the private Catholic high school, Victoria’s school district started implementing its own one-to-one technology program over the summer, with similar educational goals.