Converting old laptops to Chromebooks helps low-income students

Brittany Ewings and Simone Harper use re-furbished laptops that have been made into Chromebooks to complete classwork at West Point High School.
By: 
DONNA SUMMERALL
Staff Writer

There is a clear digital divide in society today. The divide exists between those who have access to technology and those who do not. As a result, students without the necessary technology tools are unable to compete on a level playing field. For students from low-income families, technology is often simply out of reach.

Bruce Mize, social studies instructor at West Point High School has a plan for leveling the playing field for his students at West Point High.

"I'm asking the community to donate old laptops that are too slow or the operating system is too old," Mize said. "These can mean the difference between success or failure to our students."

Mize said there are several students in the community who do not have access to the technology in order to be competitive and successful in today's digital world. The vast majority of theses students do not have access to the public library or a computer on a regular basis.

"This puts them at a distinct disadvantage," Mize said. "Just imagine you have a report to research and all you have is a textbook and an outdated set of encyclopedias. How accurate will your research be? Will it be outdated? Is there additional sources you could have access to in order to make your report better? How long would it take you if you didn't have access to any of that material and had to depend on someone to get you to and from the public library? Will you handwrite your report or type it out?" 

Now, how likely is the student to complete the report if they have 24 hour access to digital tools, asked Mize. Will the report have a variety of up-to-date resources now that the student has access?
"Move away from high school just for a moment," Mize said. "Students entering college or a university are going to be expected to have those computer literacy skills in order to be competitive and successful. As soon as our students enter high school and or college, they are competing for those future high paying jobs. Now take a step back and look at today's career choices. Having those tech skills will put them in a position to set themselves apart from the crowd."

Mize said he can easily take an old, slow laptop that is gathering dust and make it into a fully functional Chromebook.

"Many of us have an older laptop in a drawer in our homes that is old and outdated or they are just too slow to even attempt to use," Mize said. "Outdated laptops are not worth much, therefore many are not worth selling or even updating, but we are not willing to throw them out. "

Mize said these older machines can be converted to run Chrome OS. As a result, outdated laptops will run 100 times faster and allow these older machines to have a second life while helping those in need. Moving over to Chrome OS cleans out these older machines with all the bulky memory hogging software to a system that is more streamlined and clean.

"The software that our students will have access to will all be cloud based," Mize said. "As a means to stretch the life of the machines being transformed. When asked, 56 percent of teachers in low income schools state that students access to technology was a 'major challenge."

To donate laptops or for more information, email Mize at bruce.mize@westpoint.k12.ms.us

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