School technology helps a variety of students



Chromebook carts are available to students to help with any of the challenges to in-person learning throughout the COVID-19 pandemic.

Despite COVID-19 bringing frustrating changes to school life, one positive has emerged: innovations surrounding technology use in school.

The high school offers a wide variety of technology to students, the most common being a Chromebook. According to Lisa Francescon, the educational technology specialist for seventeen years, this school year has seen approximately 300 Chromebook requests. Francescon said that students have the ability to keep their Chromebook for the next school year.

“I think that, because we have Canvas, and we’ve had Canvas for a long time now, students having a device in the classroom every day is important and just using your phone isn’t necessarily enough,” Francescon said. “Maybe it can get you through one class, but you should have some sort of Chromebook or laptop.”

Francescon said that students can get a device, for a variety of times, for any reason. She also said that students have the ability to decide whether or not they need a device long-term.

“Some people will say, ‘I just need it temporarily while my device is being fixed,’ or ‘I’m waiting for my birthday and I’m getting a new one,’” Francescon said.

Darby Neff-Verre, Guidance Department Chair, has worked in Brookline for eight years and said there is a benefit of being able to supply students with technology, that benefit being equity.

“We have the capacity to equalize the access for every student in the whole district, Pre-K through 12th grade, to get the resources that they need around technology. Not all school districts, even in the state of Massachusetts, let alone the country, have the resources to do that. We’re lucky here that we do. We just have to be mindful of what the needs are and stay on top of it as the technology develops over time and not get settled into, ‘oh we got this,’ because it’s a constantly changing landscape,” Neff-Verre said.

Francescon said that prior to the pandemic, fewer students wanted school technology. That has changed.

“People were using Canvas at different levels and were not expecting students to show up to class using devices. And then, because of the pandemic, everyone needed a device. When we were hybrid, they needed to be coming with a device and that changed the dynamic,” Francescon said.

Neff-Verre said that after online school, the need for school technology decreased. However, she also said that the need is still more than what it was prior to the pandemic due to teachers utilizing technology more in class.

“I think teachers have bumped up their game quite a bit around how they incorporate technology in their teaching because of having to change things up during the pandemic,” Neff-Verre said.

Paul Auger, assistive technology (AT) specialist, aids students who have disabilities by providing them with technology that supports them with their disability. Auger said that the pandemic altered the way people see assistive technology.

“I do not think it became more important. I think that the way we view it changed. For example, we had to learn to apply it differently during the pandemic and may have discovered new ways that it can help people,” Auger said.

Auger also said that assistive technologies allow students with disabilities to take part in school and give them the chance to get the education that students without disabilities receive.

“For my students, they might not be able to participate in school without it. But using it makes it possible for them to access the same education that anyone else can, and it allows them to demonstrate how much they know and contribute to their class and the rest of society,” Auger said.

Neff-Verre said it is the school’s responsibility to ensure that all students have the technology they need to be successful in school.

“Technology is now a part of how we all operate in the world,” Neff-Verre said. “I think it’s the reality of the world that we live in and we as a school district have an obligation to support all students in making sure that they have adequate technology to be able to be successful in their classes.”