Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Student Post- "It is Exciting to Come to School Again"

Below is guest post from Van Meter junior Katie B. This post has not been edited or tweaked by me in anyway. Please read and post your comments below. Katie looks forward to your responses. Enjoy.

I still remember my very first day of school at Van Meter. Coincidentally, it was my very first day of kindergarten. I had barretts in my hair and a backpack decorated with cat stickers slung over my shoulders. Most memorably though were the butterflies that were flying around my stomach at what felt like 65 miles per hour, give or take. I skipped, not walked, into my very first classroom so excited to be there that not even the kid beside me who insisted on flinging his boogers could wipe the smile off my face.

That was almost 12 years ago and somewhere during that time the allure of school wore off. Maybe it was the removal of nap time or the awkward stage known only as junior high. Either way, attending school turned into a thing that we students HAD to do instead of something we wanted to do; much like taking out the trash or staying home on a Friday night.

But this year, my junior year, that all changed. No, Van Meter Community High School didn’t get a new lunch menu. It began the one to one program and entrusted its students with their own personal MAC laptops. More importantly though, our teachers and administrators gave us the opportunity to be apart of what has become the beginning of an educational movement! Similar to a tidal wave to the face or a nice cold Coca Cola on a hot, Iowa summer day, students at Van Meter felt the refreshing impact that the computers had on us. Suddenly, I was excited to come to school again. I wanted to see what our teachers could do with the new technology handed to them and I was eager to learn something. What a crazy thought! No longer was I dragging my feet and wondering when oh when would that bell finally ring to signal it was 3:15.

The opinions concerning the laptops vary, but one thing is for sure: these laptops have made us students more responsible then ever. If you miss a day of class, there is really no excuse for not having the homework assigned the day before turned in since all the teachers at Van Meter have a very simplistic email address already programmed into your contact book. In addition, the laptops are not indestructible and no one wants to bring their damage report (complete with charges) home to the parents.

The introduction of the one to one program has made students regard time management in a whole new way. With the Internet and the games it provides just a click away, students have been forced to make the decision between homework and mind-numbing video games. It is now our decision as to what we accomplish during the spare time that we have. With so many distractions, said decision can be tough for some.

In the same way that a casino dealer hands out poker chips to the player, the administrators and teachers at Van Meter have given us the tools needed to be successful. What we do with our chips is up to us. We can play them wisely or frivolously. We can think our actions threw or make decisions on gut feeling alone. Or we can be smart or just downright stupid. Our future is in our hands and the impact it is felt now more then ever! The teachers at Van Meter Community High School have always been and always will be here to guide, support, and teach us, but now more then ever our chances for success lie solely on our decisions and work ethic. We only have ourselves to applaud for our success or to blame for our failures. It’s a scary thought but also an exciting one, just like the introduction of the computers themselves.


  1. Katie - Outstanding post! I enjoyed reading your excellent schooling story. You are so fortunate to experience the future of education. I wish the best of everything in your bright future. You are off to a great start.

    I would love to turn back my clock and start school in Van Meter, Iowa.

  2. I am impressed by your enthusiasm and high regard for the education that you are receiving at your high school Katie. Intrinsic motivation is the most powerful force behind life-long learning and personal growth. What message would you send to the pessimists that say 1:1 laptop programs are a waste of money and there is a lack of achievement data to support such an initiative? Thank you for sharing with us your experience.

  3. I am really curious to know the details of the system such as how you catch up more easily with homework and assignments because of the laptops. How do the laptops help vs old fashioned 'phoning a friend'? Do teachers also have smartboards and post their lessons or how does this work?

    You sound like a high achiever. Do low achievers also share your enthusiasm?

    A great post for many reasons but especially because you write as a client of the sytem. You are very articulate. Ingrid

  4. Katie: I love the analogy of the poker player to that of a student throughout the post."We can play them wisely or frivolously" is the line that I find most interesting because of the unlimited access people have to technology. I agree it is up to the individual how they use the tool and as a teacher find it valuable to teach those skills in high school. I too teach at a 1:1 school, BCLUW, and can echo many of your sentiments. The lives of our students have changed forever, and so has my teaching. They certainly agree learning seems fun again and enjoy coming to school. Bravo on a well-written post - keep blogging!

  5. Katie,

    Outstanding thoughts and ideas about the introduction of your 1:1 program! I hope that you continue to make such great choices and allow for your tremendous character to spread throughout your school. I love that you have recognized the importance of staying on top of schoolwork even when you can't be in the physical space (especially with all those snow days)!

    Thanks for sharing your thoughts with the world!

  6. Thank you, Katie, for this post. Many of us Twitter PLN teachers have been seeing wonderful works of your school. Your school administration & teachers are dedicated people who celebrate your successes as learners. So, kudos for the teachers at Van Meter!

    I am struck by your reflection, particularly, by your analogy of education to poker game. You are so right by taking the thinking step: What will you do now (after you've been given these wonderful tools and opportunities to use them)? I am encouraged to see that you are taking responsibility seriously. Remember, learning IS fun, just like a poker game :-). Many hands will be dealt to you. Your post here makes me think that you will play your hands wisely.
    Here's to learning!

  7. Excellent post, Katie! How refreshing to learn of a student who takes responsibility and knows she, more than anyone else, is accountable for her education. This attitude will take you far. But you are not alone - you have a magnificent support network at Van Meter behind you. Regards, Mark Moran

    P.S. Do you still have the cat stickers?

  8. Thank you Katie for sharing your thoughts about the 1:1 laptop program at your school. I can hear the excitement in your voice when you talk about the changes that occurred as a result of the technology. Your wisdom and enthusiasm will carry you far. I too love the poker analogy. Here's hoping you will always find the fun in your future learning adventures. Great post!

  9. I love this post! it caught your attention with a descriptive hook and kept me going through the entire thing. I just have to say that the people here at Waukee are VERY jealous of you guys. I know and love Mac and truly would use mine wisely. I do know others however that might throw it at a wall.

    Ian C. from Russell Goerend's technological guidance.

  10. Nicely done Katie! I loved reading your perspective on how your school has been transformed by the 1:1 program. Your school life has been transformed by the change in delivery of content and the connectivity with the world that the technology provides. Best of luck to you and all the students at Vanmeter!

  11. Katie,

    I had the great opportunity to visit Van Meter at the beginning of May. Your post encompasses everything I saw while on my visit! Your honesty and enthusiasm is contagious!! I applaud you for writing and wish you all the best over the summer and into your senior year!

  12. Dear Eric,

    When ever something new is introduced to society, critism is sure to follow. Take the ipod for example. When first released to the public, many saw it as a waste of money and a distraction. Now everyone has one! Including those like my mother who are not technology prone. For those ctitics who say that there is no reserach to justify such an investment, I beleive that in time the data will catch up to the living breathing success stories found at Van Meter Community High School! :)

    Dear Ingrid,

    I think that in many ways the laptops allow for more communication between the teachers and the students! Nothing beats face to face corespondance of course, but I feel that because my teachers are just a quick email away, that they are so much more avalible! In regards to the smart boards, I have one teacher who does a GREAT job of updating his lessons regularly onto his moodle site. Whether you missed a day of school or are trying to study up come test time, the videos of him explaining the subject matter and providing examples really does come in handy!

    I have always been known to put forth effort into my studies, but the introduction of the laptops allowed me to accomplish more! All my materials needed for almost each and every class are located in one place! The laptops also provide an outlet for more creativity in the classroom. Even "underacievers" can appreciate that! :) Thank you for your Comments!

  13. Katie, your sharing of experiences with the 1:1 laptop program is fantastic! It is exciting for all of us who are principals and teachers to see you taking advantage of the benefits of the program. Yes, you have been placed in charge of your education. Good luck and best wishes!

  14. Katie,
    Thank you for sharing your experiences so beautifully. I think we need to hear from more students like you to attest to the benefits of giving kids the tools they need to be creative and successful in the future. I like how you mentioned the potential pitfalls and the choices students need to make to avoid them. Kudos to you for such a meaningful and well-written post!

  15. Katie,
    Your blog gives me additional confidence in what we are about to do at St. Teresa's Academy for 560 young women come fall 2010. I believe our college bound ladies will benefit greatly from the 1:1 netbook initiative our community has embraced. Your words have not fallen upon deaf ears and may other institutions find the courage & resources to follow in Van Meters footsteps. Thank you for sharing a students perspective on the 1:1 use of technology.

  16. Excellent read, Katie. I have recommended this to all of my colleagues in teacher prep programs (and I've noticed a lot of Twitter chatter about your post as well.) I'd be interested in your reaction to a video that I shot in 2005 about a school in Alaska that had been working in a one-to-one environment since 2003. It's on our iTunes U site at http://ow.ly/1T7jf .

    Every teacher takes pride in every student that "gets it," and you clearly do.

  17. Great post Katie. Lost of great feedback, especially as we think about 1:1 in our school's future. Thanks so much for taking the time to share your experiences.