Why are these changes being implemented?
AHS is implementing these changes to accomplish the following objectives:
- Allow parents to be more in control of how students access technology on and off campus.
- Help students become more technologically literate to prepare for future employment and education opportunities.
- Eliminate wasted time logging in and out, restarting, updating, and locating files on community devices.
- Decrease school technology costs while increasing device security, durability, reliability, and longevity.
- Increase student security and accountability while using technology on campus.
- Allow teachers to view the screens and control the laptops of students present in their classes.
- Increase collaboration and opportunity by allowing each student equal access to the same high-quality device.
- Eliminate the need for other personal devices in the classroom, which often become a distraction.
- Allow families to purchase student laptops for continued use after high school.
Student Laptop Initiative
All high school students (grades 9-12) will be assigned a personal MacBook Air laptop to use throughout high school. These devices will be set up in a way to allow students to access the laptop and all school software with one set of credentials. When high school students graduate, families will have the option to purchase their students’ laptops from the school at cost.
Are there any new risks with this initiative?
- No. AHS middle and high school students have used laptops in classrooms for years under faculty supervision with one layer of online content filtering. These changes add multiple layers of filtering and monitoring protection, allow parents to be more in control and aware of how technology is being used, and enhance teachers’ ability to monitor class technology use, thus increasing student safety.
What if our family has multiple high school students and we want to have different restrictions for different ages?
- Parents in this situation should select “Option 2” when indicating restriction preference in the “Technology Use Agreement.” This option will maintain school protections while allowing parents to enable Bark and Apple Screen Time settings that are unique to each child. Using these software solutions, one child may have more restrictions than another.
When will high school students receive their laptops?
- Laptops will be available for pickup after students and parents have agreed to the “Technology Use Agreement” found here. Once the agreement is completed, further instructions about location and timing for pickup will be provided.
When will training for parents be available?
- Online training will be available by August 14, 2023. Links to training will be sent via email. Additional in-person training will be offered after school starts. Parents will be able to learn everything they need/want to know to monitor their student’s activity (in the same way network administrators at AHS can monitor that activity) and set accessibility/functionality limits to their student’s device outside of school hours.
We already have a family computer at home; what if I don’t want my child to have access to a personal laptop at home or school?
- Parents can choose whether to have these devices accessible outside of school hours. AHS will use device management software to restrict all devices outside of school hours. This means that if a student were to try to use the device before school starts or after school ends, the device will be locked and inaccessible to the student. If a parent wishes to allow the device to be used outside of school hours, that decision can be indicated in the “Technology Use Agreement.” Additionally, AHS will provide training on setting up the “Screen Time” settings built into each MacBook Air. These settings will allow parents to set up family-specific restrictions that can be controlled from a parent’s device.
- While we recognize there are drawbacks to each student carrying their own laptop in school, we feel the following benefits outweigh the potential harm:
- Organization: Personal laptops can be used for calendaring, taking quizzes, and completing assignments on Canvas, and saving files that other users will not override on a community device. Because of this, student accountability will also increase.
- Engagement: Every student having access to the same quality and kind of device allows teachers to occasionally use interactive polls and quizzes as an engaging teaching method and a quick way of assessing student comprehension.
- Collaboration: Being signed into OneDrive or Google Drive on a personal laptop will allow students to quickly collaborate with their teachers and peers during group assignments or while studying.
Will students who have already completed one or more years of high school still be required to use this new MacBook?
- All high school students will be required to use the new school-issued MacBook Airs beginning in August of 2023.
Is this the reason tuition has increased? Will tuition increase because of these changes?
- No. All technology changes for the 2023-2024 school year are budget neutral. Additionally, these changes create the potential for significant technology savings in the coming years. The tuition increase for the 2023-24 year was explained by administration in January is driven primarily by inflation (including inflation unique and specific to the labor market for teachers, which was directly impacted by recent legislation).
What happens if my child damages their or another student’s laptop?
- Parents/guardians must purchase a replacement device from AHS if their student intentionally or unintentionally damages their or any other school-owned device to the point that it no longer operates reasonably. This consideration is not new to this initiative. Under our previous laptop initiative where students accessed communal devices, students had the potential to damage school equipment. When damage occurred, administration worked with parents to remedy the situation. The school will continue to expect school property damaged intentionally or unintentionally to be remedied by those responsible for the damage.
What if students forget to bring or need to charge their laptops during school?
- High School students are expected to ensure their MacBook Airs are charged and ready for class daily. If a high school student is asked to use their device in class, but it is not charged or was forgotten at home, they may not use a cellphone or personal device to complete their assignment; they must complete a handwritten equivalent assignment (if possible), borrow a school-owned Dell Latitude laptop, ask a parent to bring their MacBook to the school, or wait to submit their work on a family-owned device outside of class time. Students should not plan on being able to charge their devices during class.
How does the device buyout option work? How much will the device cost?
- Families will have the option to purchase the laptops used by their high school students when those students graduate. The cost of the laptops will vary year to year depending on the device’s age and the school’s initial cost of $649. The following table outlines the per-device buyout cost for upcoming graduating classes (The school is not profiting from the sale of these devices; they are provided to families at cost):
Cost per MacBook
Improving Safety and Simplifying Parental Control
How does American Heritage ensure my student remains safe while online at school?
- Elementary students do not have access to devices. For students in grades 6-12, specific websites and website categories are “black-listed” from student networks. The school utilizes strict content-filtering software; all student Google accounts are set to “strict” safe-search settings, with advertisements disabled.
- AHS utilizes Bark for Schools to monitor student accounts. Bark for Schools utilizes artificial intelligence to send real-time alerts to school administration when the software detects instances of anxiety/depression, bullying, interaction with dangerous organizations, drug/alcohol-related content, hate speech, medically concerning content, profanity, risky app/site usage, self-harm or suicidal content, sexual content, violence, or references to a weapon on campus. Similar artificial intelligence is utilized to block this content in real time, even if the content appears after a page has finished loading.
- Students are required to take “Digital Discipleship” before graduating. In this course, “students will be encouraged not to fear technology, but to learn practical skills and be proactive in utilizing the guidance of the Spirit and the Atonement of Jesus Christ to appropriately use these tools for good throughout their life.” They are also taught that the user is the only content filter and firewall with the potential to be one hundred percent effective.
How does American Heritage help me monitor devices while at home?
- American Heritage School has partnered with Bark, a software company leading the way in protecting youth online. AHS parents will be able to get 50% off a yearly subscription to Bark Premium for Families, allowing parents to protect, monitor, and restrict all family devices. Parents preferring to not introduce any new usage of a device by their student can maintain the default setting for the MacBook Air, which is for the device to be inoperable outside of school hours.
Improving Technology as a Classroom Tool Under Teacher Direction
Can students use laptops for note-taking?
- Without administration-approved accommodation, laptops may not be used for taking notes during class. Numerous studies confirm the retention and comprehension benefits of taking notes by hand. Students will thus only be using laptops when being specifically directed by a teacher for purposes of a learning exercise (and when the teacher can give their attention to monitoring the activity of the students).
When during school hours will students be able to use their laptops?
- Laptops will only be allowed with teacher permission and for educational purposes. They may be confiscated if they are used inappropriately or if they cause a distraction to the student user or other students. Teachers will be trained to manage a classroom of students using devices. Specific techniques are taught and practiced ensuring devices do not become a distraction.
How will AHS improve access to assignments, accountability, and access to learning applications for students?
- To simplify how class content and assignments are accessed and turned in, all middle and high school classes will begin using Canvas, a learning management software used by most middle schools, high schools, and universities nationwide. Parents are welcome to use the Canvas Parents app to observe their children’s classes or continue to use Veracross, as both applications will sync daily.
How does AHS prepare students to be technologically proficient?
- A new technology curriculum will prepare middle and high school students for three certification tracks: Microsoft Office, the Python programming language, and/or one of the Adobe Creative Cloud applications. The focus of all technology curricula will be to guide students to use technology the way God intended. Beginning with the 2025 graduating class, all eleventh-grade students will be required to take Digital Discipleship, a new, term-length “Patterns of Liberty” course designed to help students learn to follow Christ in a digital world.
Changes to School-wide Technology Policy
- Across campus, personal devices (defined here as any kind of smartwatch, smartphone, tablet, and/or laptop not managed by AHS) will not be permitted to be used in classrooms at any time. After signing the “Technology Use Agreement”, students will no longer be reminded to stow or turn off personal devices. If they are taken out during class, they will be confiscated.
- High school students can use personal devices during passing periods and—in a limited manner—during lunch. Like passing periods, lunchtime usage of personal devices should be referential in nature, be of short duration, and not facilitate social isolation. Social development is among the most important-but-underappreciated benefits teenagers derive from their school experience, and we intend to maintain a vibrant culture of sociality where real and rich relationships flourish. The cell phone permissions in high school are subject to change on the basis of how student usage of cell phones impacts our ability to realize the student culture we insist on having. Elementary and middle school students are not permitted to use personal devices during school hours. AHS encourages parents of elementary and middle-school students to keep their children’s personal devices at home and invite their children to use school phones in the front office to contact parents if needed. Elementary and middle-school students who do bring personal devices to school, for purposes of communicating with parents immediately after school, should maintain their devices in the off position and in a backpack until the school day is over.
- Without administration-approved accommodation, laptops may not be used for taking notes during class. Numerous studies confirm the retention and comprehension benefits of taking notes by hand.
- Every high school student will be required to maintain and protect their laptop for the duration of their time at AHS. If a laptop is damaged to the point that it is no longer usable, it is the responsibility of the family to purchase a replacement from the school. Students are not permitted to apply stickers or other decorations directly to their laptops.
- Students are required to bring their MacBooks to school with a full charge every day. If student laptops are not charged, students may be required to complete missed assignments outside of class or be loaned an older school laptop for the day.
- Graduating seniors’ parents can purchase their students’ laptops from the school at a significant discount.
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