HCS Engaged Learning Initiative expands the classrooms

By MOLLY DAVIDSON / Staff Writer

HOOVER—As computers become increasingly important in everyday life, Hoover City Schools sits at the cutting edge of implementing technology in the classroom. Through the system’s Engaged Learning Initiative, students are provided with laptops and the tools to use them to enhance the learning experience.

The HCS Engaged Learning Initiative provides technology to supplement classroom and home learning. (Contributed)

The HCS Engaged Learning Initiative provides technology to supplement classroom and home learning. (Contributed)

In third grade, each student is given a school-issued Google Chromebook laptop, loaded with educational apps. The laptops allow students to access assignments both in the classroom and at home.

“It’s their Trapper-Keeper for five years,” Hoover City Schools Chief Technology Officer Bryan Phillips explained.

Unlike a Trapper-Keeper, the laptops do more than just store and organize student work. The laptops facilitate interaction and extend a classroom environment into the home.

“It’s a 24-hour atmosphere where kids can have access to everything,” Phillips said. Through Google Apps, students can collaborate on group projects, access teacher notes and even browse schoolbooks, all from home.

The laptops are also an important tool in the classroom, allowing students to share and work on the same document from different computers.

“It creates a bigger culture of collaboration,” Berry Middle School instructional technology coach Jeff Richardson said. “Kids are being more social in what they’re learning and sharing with each other.”

Teachers also use the technology to “expand” the classroom, Hoover High School technology teacher Keith Fulmer explained, noting teachers have used applications such as Google Hangouts and video conferences to bring additional resources to the classroom.

“We have a chemistry teacher who will, through Google Hangout, bring in a pharmacist (to speak to her class),” Fulmer said. “It’s expanding the classroom beyond the brick and mortar walls.”

Going into its third year, the Engaged Learning Initiative has enhanced the school experience through technology, both for teachers and students, Richardson explained.

“Kids, and teachers as well, will recognize the device as a tool, a tool to learn,” Richardson explained. “They’re using it for their own learning. We’ve moved huge steps forward.”

The technology initiative has a five-year refresh plan, ensuring the technology stays up-to-date. Additionally, the technology initiative has not cost the system any out-of-budget expenses.

“This is not outside of any budget,” Phillips said. “We’re taking what we used to use in other places and putting it into the device itself.”