LIVINGSTON, NJ – Results of the second of three surveys being issued to Heritage Middle School (HMS) and Livingston High School (LHS) students, teachers and parents involved in the 1:1 computer initiative are in. 

According to Superintendent of Schools Christina Steffner, who presented the findings at Monday’s Livingston Board of Education (LBOE) meeting, although the initiative is proving itself largely successful, some new themes have emerged that will need to be addressed.

As with the initial survey, students and parents received a 27-question survey while teachers were given a 34-question survey with the additional questions aimed at gathering more information specific to the educator’s perspective. Room for comments was incorporated into each version of the survey.  

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Comments were plentiful, according to Steffner, with 28 percent of all students, 43 percent of all teachers and 42 percent of all parents who participated taking advantage of the opportunity to express their experience in their own words. 

Several new themes that had not appeared in the first survey made an appearance on the second.

HMS student data showed that the need to restart devices frequently was now becoming more of a factor. On the positive side, several verbatim responses mentioned that HMS students appreciated being able to use educational websites to review materials before a test.

Many LHS students also volunteered the tendency towards frequent reboots, which had not previously been reported. Other comments were mixed.

On another positive note, one of the most oft-talked-about themes from survey one regarding a need for additional charging stations seemed to be successfully addressed, as several comments noted how added stations have gone a long way toward prolonging battery life on the devices. 

LHS students also remarked that having access to a portable device allowed for more flexibility in getting work done anywhere (like on their bus commutes and en route to travel team games, for example) while also making their backpacks lighter. 

On the negative side, there was an uptick in the number of lost and stolen surface pens; an increase in eyestrain associated with screen time and size; and a greater likelihood of falling prey to distraction. Teachers echoed this sentiment, stating that the devices were causing greater distraction among their students. 

“One of the things we’re telling teachers and students is that it’s important, when students aren’t using their devices, that they drop the cover 40-45 degrees, so they’re not constantly looking at the screen, especially when they don’t need to be using their devices,” said Steffner.

The other emerging theme from educators was that Schoology, the learning management system that gives teachers and students access to prepared tools, content, lessons and assessments, needed to become more of a priority if it was to be used to greatest effect.

Parent responses also showed concern that having easier access to YouTube videos and games was paving the way for greater distraction when students use their devices to get their homework done. Along the same line, parents also felt they had less ability to monitor what their children were viewing on the school devices. 

Some parents reported that they were worried about their children’s vision becoming an issue. Additionally, parents found it difficult to locate teachers’ pages so that they could follow the assignments their children were being given. 

However, parents also said that they were grateful their children were guaranteed a device they may not otherwise have been able to obtain. They also said the devices made schoolwork easier overall and helped their children to stay organized.

Holdover themes that had become evident in survey one continued to prove challenging: that students, staff and parents could benefit from additional training; that access to platforms where teachers were posting homework assignments was still difficult; and that insurance fees and coverage options needed further exploration.

“We are pleasantly surprised at the amount of time students spend using their computers,” said Steffner. “They’re using them all throughout the day. We just have to get them in the habit of turning them off when they’re not using them. The tech tips that we’re giving will hopefully help improve some of these issues.”

The final survey of the year, which will include slight modifications, will be fielded in the spring with results expected towards the end of the school year. Once results are back, the LBOE will review the first year’s worth of data to evaluate how the needs and issues that have been identified have been met and will be in a better position to make recommendations for building on the program’s positives going into year two.