On August 10, the auditorium at Hill Campus of Arts and Sciences buzzed with excitement as the eager sixth-grade class assembled for a special presentation.
Denver school board member Mike Johnson warmed up the crowd, asking students, “Who uses an encyclopedia to look things up?” A few hands slowly rose. “Now who uses Google,” he asked, as a roomful of hands shot up in response.
The sixth-grade class soon learned from Principal Sean Kavanaugh that they each would receive a new Chromebook laptop computer to use throughout their middle-school careers.
The devices came to them courtesy of $10 million in voter-approved bond funds that DPS has invested in educational technology through the MyTech initiative.
“Denver voters gave us a wonderful opportunity to give students access to tech beyond their school day,” said DPS Superintendent Tom Boasberg at the morning’s festivities. “Students will not only be able to use these devices at school, they will also be able to take them home.”
In its pilot year, MyTech is providing DPS students in 13 schools with a personal computer at the beginning of the academic year. The program is designed to get technology into the hands of kids at an earlier age, with hopes that it will help diversify the tech industry, encouraging underrepresented girls and minority students to pursue STEM careers. Hill is a very diverse school, with about 62 percent of its students from minority backgrounds, and 56 percent receiving free and reduced lunch.
Hank Usalavage, who lives in Cherry Creek North, said it would be his first personal computer. “I can’t believe they would trust us with this! These are expensive!” he said. Usalavage plans to “research a lot” and do homework.
“It means a lot to me because when I was in fourth and fifth grade, we only got them for testing,” said G.G. Hartman from Aurora. “Now they trust us to look up facts and things on our own.”
Beaming with pleasure, Jaeda Swindler was already making great use of her new device at the assembly, looking up one of her favorite YouTube stars. But, in all seriousness, Swindler said she is ready for the “great responsibility” and plans to use it for research and homework.
The schools that received computers had submitted an application to DPS. According to DPS, they had to “demonstrate a willingness to reconsider their instructional practices and to seek new ways to meet the needs of their students.”
NOTE: The headline was corrected. Our print edition said 9th Graders. We apologize for the error.