Rowland Unified School District

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Laptops Revolutionize Learning at Nogales High School

Laptops revolutionize learning at Nogales High

Nogales High School is in the middle of a educational revolution. Not only is the Rowland Unified campus undergoing a complete transformation with new buildings, but the teaching is undergoing its own metamorphosis.

While the local high school is shifting to the state’s common core curriculum, a select group of students have volunteered for the new CORE program. That stands for Creation of Revolutionary Education.

Teachers hope the use of technology will help drive their instruction to new levels. The instructors are working together across their disciplines to help their students master their high school classes.

“We’re using digital technology to help our students become more creative and innovative,” explained Wendy Mumaw, technology coach. “Instead of textbooks and paper, our students are using their laptops to research topics and multimedia to present their projects.”

We joined a group of ninth graders who signed up for CORE. Mumaw said she had 120 students in four sections studying in the new program.

Groups of four students were working on their laptops while the team of teachers moved from pod to pod offering advice and instruction. The teens had brought their own laptops or purchased Google Chromebooks through the high school.

“We got a good deal on Samsung Chromebooks,” Mumaw said. “The students can buy them for only $279 including insurance. They only had to give us a $50 deposit to get started.”

The freshmen were using their new computers to work on an assignment for biology. Science teacher Miguel Espinoza asked them to assess the health benefits of different products.

Lorenzo Chavez was comparing the benefits of Yoplait vs. Activia to see what they offered the average consumer. The 15-year-old was researching the products so he could separate advertising hype from fact.

“They push probiotics in the commercials we all see, so I’m studying the benefits of this live bacteria,” Lorenzo said.

The freshman said he signed up for the new CORE program because he wanted to learn how to use technology to his advantage.

“I think this will help me become successful in high school. I want to go on to a four-year college,” the enthusiastic Noble said.

Lorenzo likes researching on the Internet. The little laptops connect with the high school’s Wi-Fi network.

“We have a good high speed Wi-Fi network throughout the Nogales campus,” notes Kurt Schlatter, the school’s tech.

CORE students use Google’s free apps for education. It’s website points out that “Google Chrome for Education uses technologies like Safe Browsing and sandboxing to help protect students and teachers from malicious websites, viruses, malware and phishing attacks. And Chrome’s cross-site scripting protection offers added security against sites that try to attack school networks or steal user identities.”

Insurance pays for laptop repairs.

“You wouldn’t believe how much milk gets spilled on these keyboards,” Schlatter said. “And we loan school laptops to the students if we have to send their computer in for repairs.”

Mumaw says the computers have changed her teaching style.

“I use flip teaching now. We give the students projects to work on and they research the subject, then report back to the class,” the veteran teacher said. “Like common core, it is more inquiry-based than standard teaching. It’s similar to the International Baccalaureate curriculum.”

Some students say they really like the CORE teaching style.

“It’s really different. That’s why I chose this program,” agreed 14-year-old Maritsa Ramirez. “Now I don’t have to carry a lot of heavy textbooks around, I can access them on the Internet.”

Workgroups share their projects via Google documents, answering teacher’s questions online as they complete their tasks. Espinoza showed us some of the answers his students were emailing him.

Some students like incorporate social media in their studies. One group was thinking of creating a Facebook page for their project.

All part of the new CORE program that is revolutionizing instruction at Nogales High.


Richard Irwin

Reach the author at or follow Richard on Twitter: @richirwinsgvn.

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