EdTech for Parents

Technology FAQ

In what grades will students be given laptops?  

  • Students in 4th grade will have their own laptops to use in their classrooms. Each 5th – 12th grade student will be issued a laptop at the beginning of the year for school use at GRACE and home. The laptop will be returned to GRACE at the end of each school year for refreshing and reformatting. The same laptop will be reissued to the student at the beginning of the next school year. 

Can I provide a laptop instead of using GRACE’s laptop? 

  • No. For consistency of policies, applications, filters, and classroom instruction all students must use school-issued computers for school work.

Will the students own their own laptops?

  • No, the devices will be on loan to the students for the school year.

How much additional cost will parents pay?

  • The cost of the computer is part of the tuition and book fees. Each student will purchase an approved case from the school that will last them the duration of their time at GRACE.

What liability will parents incur with laptops?

  • For MacBooks, GRACE has purchased a warranty through Apple that covers most damage. However, parents are responsible for the cost of repairs for damage (accidental or not) that are not covered by our warranty. The most expensive repairs that are not covered are liquid spills and cracked screens (approximately $750). While these repairs through Apple are expensive, we do not allow third party repairs as they invalidate our warranty. These are not common issues, especially if students are careful with their computers and use their purchased carrying case.
  • For Chromebooks, GRACE has carefully selected devices that will be economical to repair. In many cases, repairs will be in-house through the vendor without incurring expensive repair fees.  For liquid and drop damage (including cracked screens), parents would be responsible for, at most, the cost of replacement of the Chromebook (less than $350). In some cases, cracked screens might be repaired for as little as $150.

How do students get tech support if they have any problems with their device?

  • Each campus has technology support staff available on site. Students with urgent, critical needs can ask for teacher permission to bring their computers directly to this staff during posted hours. For non-emergency needs, all students have access to an online portal to submit technical issues. Loaner computers will be available for students to use if their laptops require maintenance.

Can students print from their school computer to their home printer?

  • GRACE will not support printing from a student’s school assigned computer to a home printer in the school year 2017-2018. Students will need to print while at school at the easily available school printers or email documents to another computer at their house. GRACE students are doing more work electronically. While printing will never go away completely, this policy reflects the reality of a more paperless world. This also reflects a desire to use the IT staff’s time efficiently. With the variety of printers families own and an increasing student population, setting up home printing student by student is not time efficient.

How will inappropriate materials be filtered? 

  • The school has taken precautions to restrict access to inappropriate materials through a filtering and monitoring system. However, it is impossible on a global internet to control access to all data that a user may discover. It is the user’s responsibility not to initiate access to such material. All laptops will be filtered through the GRACE filtering and monitoring system 24/7 whether they are in use on campus or off. Classroom teachers and IT coordinators on each campus will monitor internet use. Administration and the IT coordinators will also be able to view student internet site histories.
  • Parents are always responsible for monitoring student internet use at home. Suggestions and resources will be discussed at parent orientation.

Does GRACE still use textbooks?

  • We are committed to providing the best available curricular resources for all our students. The principal, department head/grade level coordinator, and teacher make decisions about the best resources for each class.  For some grades/classes, that is a traditional print textbook. For others, the digital textbook works well and provides additional resources such as videos. One teacher has created her own textbook using Open Education Resources  (OER) and her own work, and others are looking into this possibility.

Does GRACE teach students to use how to use computers responsibly?

  • Yes. Several years ago the IT department wrote a complete TK-12th grade Scope and Sequence to digital and library skills. This is a broad curriculum, covering everything from learning to type to curating a positive digital footprint. Areas of emphasis in this curriculum include Media Center use, computer literacy, internet safety, research and information fluency, and social responsibility and ethical use.

What kind of computer science curriculum or clubs does GRACE offer? 

  • GRACE begins introducing computer science concepts in our youngest grades with informal lessons, using our robots, Hour of Code, and unpluggable lessons.
  • Our 3rd -5th graders learn coding through Hour of Code and unpluggable lessons in their media class.
  • Formal computer science classes are offered as electives starting in 6th graders and continue throughout middle school and high school. 6th graders can take a Computer Science Fundamentals elective in which Blockly and Scratch languages are taught through coding lessons.
  • High school class options include Introduction to Computer Science, Introduction to Python, Introduction to Java, Computer Science Principles, and AP Computer Science.
  • On each campus, we have after-school clubs to build interest and learning in computer science. Our 801 Campus Tech Club is primarily for our 6th graders, while our Maker Club is for our 7th-12th grade students. Each meet monthly to explore various topics, often related to computer science and coding.

What are typical uses of the devices? 

  • Students use their devices to communicate, collaborate, and create.  
  • In the lower grades, students learn about digital citizenship; research and evaluate online sources; create documents, presentations, and spreadsheets; and use green screens.
  • Our 6th grade Multimedia class created the school’s 2016 Christmas greeting video.
  • In the upper grades (6th-12th), students use their computers to organize their learning via our Learning Management System (Talon); collaborate and communicate with peers, teachers, and mentors; research online databases and the internet; and create digital products that show their learning. Students easily create a Christmas Card in Spanish class, use 3D modeling software to create tops, or create a public blog to share what they are learning.

How has the technology initiative changed over the last 6 years? 

  • GRACE IT department staff consistently evaluates new technology to bring the best to our students. As a result, we have updated laptops, purchased new cameras, installed permanent green screens on both campuses, and created a 7th-12th grade Makerspace (with a 3D printer) and two TK-6th grade Maker carts (with BeeBot and Dot and Dash). We have stayed on the cutting edge of technology integration, using models like SAMR and TPACK to help teachers integrate technology effectively. We have also introduced teachers to many methods that increase student choice and take advantage of our technological resources, such as Project-Based Learning, design thinking, and flipping the classroom. Teachers and students have access to new tools like Microsoft Office 365. Finally, we have increased our Computer Science offerings and outreach, including doing Hour of Code and Lego Robotics programs.

Isn’t all of this screen time bad for children?

  • There are legitimate worries about students having too much screen time, especially if it comes at the cost of off-screen emotional/social connections and physical activity.  However, GRACE believes that it is possible to gain the advantages of technology without the drawbacks through careful assessment. Individual teachers evaluate each use of technology and determine if technology adds to learning or harms it. If technology does not add to the lesson, teachers do not use it. Even though students use their laptops extensively, there are also entire class periods where students do not open them. GRACE does not believe in technology for technology’s sake. We use technology because technology creates opportunities and allows us to better prepare students to serve Christ in a technology-saturated world.

Why these laptops?

  • GRACE’s goal from the beginning was to provide the best devices for our students. For many years, Apple was at the forefront of technology in education, so GRACE used MacBooks for 4th-12th grade students. Recently, other platforms have caught up in performance, durability, and ease of use. Google Chromebooks provide the capabilities GRACE students need with the additional advantage of being much more affordable. In fact, Google Chromebooks are now more popular in schools than Apple products. Thus, for the school year 2017-2018, GRACE 4th-6th grade students will receive Chromebooks.The GRACE IT staff, faculty, and students will evaluate these devices throughout the year.  If they are a good fit for the GRACE community, older grades may receive them in the following years. For the 2017-2018 school year, 7th-12th grade students will still use an Apple MacBook Air.

Is there parent training? 

  • Yes, there will be student and parent orientations at the beginning of the school year. There will also be parent help sessions and parent education opportunities throughout the year. In addition, parents may wish to use the resources available at Common Sense Media and in this article (“Protecting Children’s Privacy Online”).

What training have teachers received?

  • Teachers receive ongoing training and professional development to equip them to integrate technology into their classrooms. This includes reading influential books such as Why School?: How Education Must Change When Learning and Information Are Everywhere, conferences such as the North Carolina Technology in Education Society conference, guest speakers, annual in-house Edcamps, and frequent coaching meetings with a technology integration facilitator. Since GRACE teachers know what works best in a GRACE classroom, each campus also has “technology smackdowns” in staff meetings. In a smackdown, a teacher shares a technology tool that he has used in the classroom and evaluates it.