Chromebook distribution to support remote learning during the covid-19 pandemic has become a statewide need for school districts. Possessing these in-demand laptop computers is one thing, but knowing how to operate them is another. So after receiving numerous complaints from frustrated parents and students on the issue, Watson Chapel hosted a Chromebook Boot Camp.
“We had parents who were having problems with the basics of turning on a Chromebook,” said Watson Chapel High School Principal Henry Webb Sr., who said he currently has 274 students enrolled in virtual learning.
To get everyone up to speed, Watson Chapel High School held a Chromebook Boot Camp taught by the tech-savvy Watson Chapel High School biology and human anatomy teacher Cameran Faucette.
Faucette teaches biology virtually for students in high school. Only his first- and sixth-period classes are in-person. Faucette is also a member of the Watson Chapel Wildcat Facebook Chat composed of district parents who use that platform to find out the latest school news from other parents, teachers and school counselors.
It was in that group chat where Faucette noticed frustrated parents. One parent expressed the preference of AMI packets over virtual.
A message from Superintendent Jerry Guess last week to parents explained how virtual was new territory for them all, especially in the area of the students that they serve.
“We too are struggling, but we are making improvements every day,” said Guess, who expressed his concern for the students who may be on a course for retention or failure of a subject due to virtual learning.
“A lot of issues when it comes to this virtual environment is not knowing how to troubleshoot their own issues,” he said. “They just think of it as not working and they really don’t understand the steps to take in order to see if there is an actual issue with the Chromebook or if it’s something as simple as ‘did I hold the power button long enough to make sure it cycles on or if the Chromebook is charging.'”
Held in the high school cafeteria Tuesday evening, about 30 parents attended. Faucette went over how to turn on a Chromebook, how to charge it, virtual attendance, Google Classroom navigation, Google Meet, Zoom, paying attention during virtual classes and taking a screenshot.
“The school chairs are uncomfortable for a reason,” said Webb. “When they’re at home they are chilled out. We need to make sure they are paying attention and don’t fall asleep.”
When it comes to navigating a Chromebook, Faucette says it’s not just the parents who get flustered– the students do also. Giving an example of a virtual student who went to the school to have his laptop repaired only to find out it wasn’t charged, Faucette said trying to get parents and students in the mindset of troubleshooting has been a challenge.
The virtual world comes with its own set of challenges also. One of them being that teachers are not receiving the work submitted by their students. Faucette said taking screenshots are not only good to keep a record of completed assignments but could help troubleshoot when errors occur.
“Most people don’t realize you can take a screenshot on laptops, let alone a Chromebook,” he said. “Whenever there is an issue, instead of verbally trying to get out of them the issue that they are having, they can take a screenshot of the issue, send it to me and I can now see what type of issue they are having, and I can try to use the screenshot as a method to troubleshoot the issue.”
The biggest complaint Faucette said that he hears from students and teachers is unanswered emails. After explaining the reason, he said, parents had a better understanding. Faucette said Google floods the teacher’s inbox every time a student completes or revises an assignment.
“For that one class of 50-plus students, when I make an assignment and the students submit it, assuming everyone completed it, I receive 50 emails if not more just for that one assignment, just for that one class and I have a total of six [classes],” he said. “It is not unheard of for a student to email me during that time of submitting an assignment and it becomes lost between the 300 plus emails I receive a day.”
Faucette said not every teacher is as tech-savvy as he is, and even though he tries to help his colleagues filter through emails; some just don’t have a great understanding of technology. Faucette explained how that an inbox full of message alerts can overwhelm a teacher who is receiving a complaint about an unanswered email.
“Thanks for shedding some light on the chaos,” said April Davis, a parent in the Watson Chapel parent chat. “We are living in trying times, and everyone’s emotions are all over the place trying to adjust to situations in which we don’t and can’t see any sign of light at the end of the tunnel.”
Davis said Faucette’s explanation helps those on the outside looking in to see things from teachers’ and administrators’ perspectives.
Another parent, Sarah Philips, said she was thankful for the effort displayed by the teachers.
For parents and students who still are having problems, Faucette said he is available to answer questions. For parents who want to discuss changing to onsite instruction, Guess said parents are welcome to schedule an appointment with their child’s principal.