Laptops

Viera High School principal Sarah Robinson holds up one of the 2,300 laptop computers that were scheduled to be distributed to students on Oct. 28. The 11-inch Lenovo computers feature a touch screen and the screen can be flipped back so it can also be used as a tablet. Viera is one of three Brevard County schools that will allow students to take their laptops home.

Viera High School students are about to get another tool to use in their education.

On Oct. 28, the school began distributing 2,300 laptop computers that students will be able to use both in class and at home.

Brevard County Public Schools is using federal funds from COVID-19 relief to fund the program, known as 1:1, but only Viera and two other schools — Edgewood and Merritt Island — are allowing students to take the 11-inch Lenovo laptops home with them.

“All of the high schools have been provided the laptops where they can go one-to-one with students,” Viera High principal Sarah Robinson said. “In talking with our faculty and talking to our students, which really, our students drive a lot of what we decide to do, they really felt like having a device at home would bridge that gap between home and school. Our staff also felt it was really important for every student to have a device with them that they could take home.

“That’s why we decided not to house the devices here at school, but to put them in student’s hands and give them that flexible learning environment.”

Not only will students be able to do their homework and write papers, but Robinson said they are encouraged to access their online textbooks, college applications and research materials.

“I know our teachers are getting more creative about what digital tools they’re going to use,” Robinson said.

In order to receive a laptop, students will have to have their parents sign a consent form and also attend a training session with modules that include information on how to take care of the laptop and internet safety among other topics.

Teachers will be able to monitor students in class to make sure they are being safe online during the school day and that certain inappropriate websites are blocked.

“The district provides the entire district with monitoring software,” Viera Network Administrator Richard Zacke said. “It enables the teachers to monitor them in school. They can see their screen. They can set up sites that the teacher feels like needs to be blocked.

“The district already has a set of rules, and therefore, websites to be blocked. We have a filter that’s created for that already. But the teachers can further make that personalized for their classrooms.”

Websites that are blocked at school should also be blocked on the devices at home.

“The general filter blocks most of that stuff and that filter follows you home because it’s software that’s built into the computer,” Zacke said. “It will still block the same sites that we block here.”

Should parents want to opt out of allowing their child to bring the laptop home because of cybersecurity concerns or potential liability if the device is damaged, the student will still be able to use it on campus by checking it out before school and then returning it to the school’s media center at the end of the day.

Teachers will be

able to monitor

students in class to

make sure they 

are being safe.

For those who opt in, however, Robinson believes the impact will be immediate.

“I know the staff can’t wait to get these in their hands and our students (can’t wait) as well,” she said. “Also, talking to parents and our community members that have been involved, they’re super excited.

“I think right now there’s truly a gap when students don’t have technology or those resources at home between their learning experiences. So much of what they do in high school and preparing them for college and their career involves being on the computer, being on the internet and accessing digital tools, whether it’s textbooks or software or resources — even for research or accelerated coursework.”

Putting the project together has been a community-wide effort. Originally scheduled to be shipped during the summer, the laptops arrived at the start of the school year, putting extra pressure on the school’s network administrators — Zacke and Kyle McFall — to get them programmed and imaged while also doing their regular day-to-day work.

Zacke said the school initially received 1,590 computers, all on pallets, and that a number of teachers volunteered their time to help unpack the laptops. The remaining shipment was unboxed by the school’s cheerleaders.

Additionally, a committee consisting of Viera parents, teachers and administrators have been meeting every Friday to help plan for the rollout.

“It’s definitely an undertaking. It’s a big feat, giving out 2,300 devices,” Robinson said. “But I’m confident our kids, our teachers, our parents and our community are going  to rise to the occasion and embrace it. We’ve had nothing but excitement and positive feedback towards this coming out“.

Certainly, there are some people with concerns or questions, and we’ll certainly encounter things we probably haven’t thought of that we’ll have to troubleshoot. But we’re very excited to get these in the hands of our students.”