NORTH ATTLEBORO — An old auto repair shop at North Attleboro High School is being converted into an “innovation center” where students can utilize the latest in technology in their learning, Principal Peter Haviland said.
The shop was closed years ago and has been used as an auxiliary room, but is now being converted as the school department cranks up its integration of technology into instruction.
The news was disclosed at a school committee meeting Monday when all the district’s principals updated the board of its progress plans.
A large share of the presentations was devoted to technology and the classroom use of Chromebooks the district is leasing for every middle and high school student.
The laptops will cost the schools $200,000 this year and $900,000 over four years.
After the meeting, Haviland said the innovation center will feature Mac computers for graph design, a 3-D printer and a laser etcher.
Haviland said the etcher can be used to write words or symbols on objects, but the real benefit is the coding and programing students will need to learn to operate it.
He said the innovation center is another step in preparing students for life after school and giving them practical skills that are used in business.
Haviland told the school committee the expanded use of technology at the high school is going well.
“We’re rocking and rolling,” he said.
But, most of the talk during the presentations was about the Chromebooks.
They are being paid for with the school’s $2.8 million share of a $6.5 million tax increase approved by voters last year.
The principals said the Chromebook integration into classrooms has gone smoothly and they expect even better results next year when students are accustomed to the Google laptops.
Amvet School Principal Michelle McKeon said teachers have learned how much time students should spend on computers, when they should close the computers and talk, and how much traditional reading they should do.
Martin School Principal Jennifer Kelly said having every student with a laptop “has completely changed the way we are teaching.”
Middle school Principal Brianne Kelleher said students can use the computers to create graphs that go along with their math lessons.
School committee members had several questions for principals, including how they monitor what websites the students are viewing, how many computers have been broken, and do they offer keyboard-typing lessons for the young children.
Kelleher said 30 computer screens have been broken at the middle school out of 1,100, but they were quickly replaced.
Superintendent Scott Holcomb said the district bought extra Chromebooks so students could have a replacement while their broken device is sent out for repairs.
The principals also said they have talked about incorporating keyboard lessons into the school day.
Holcomb said a firewall prevents students from going on inappropriate sites and there is a monitoring system.