Mahomet-Seymour school tech night

Caitlin Megginson-Dicken, instructional coach for the Mahomet-Seymour school district, talks to a parent about Chromebooks that are used by older students on Aug. 15, 2019, in the high school auditorium.

MAHOMET — Parents in the Mahomet-Seymour school district will have a chance to talk technology Wednesday and learn more about how students use Chromebooks throughout their school years, starting in sixth grade in particular.

At 5:30 p.m. in the Mahomet-Seymour Junior High School library, just prior to the junior high open house starting at 6:30 p.m. for the new school year, Caitlin Megginson-Dicken, grades 6-12 instructional coach, will be available to walk adults through the students’ use of computers provided by the district. A Thursday, Aug. 15, event on technology was lightly attended due to conflicting events, so district leaders wanted to offer parents another chance to access this information.

The event pertains to new incoming students and sixth-graders especially, said Megginson-Dicken, who noted that her job is “to support teachers in any way I can.

“I work mostly with new teachers, but I also work with veteran teachers to help integrate technology, answer any questions they have,” she added. Megginson-Dicken also helps facilitate peer observations and cross-curricular lessons and units.

“I’m here to help facilitate in any way I can,” she said.

Junior high years are the first time that Mahomet-Seymour district students can have extended access to their Chromebooks for homework and other school-related needs.

“Sixth grade’s the first time that they’re able to take them home,” Megginson-Dicken said.

Once a student is assigned a particular computer, they keep it during future school years.

“It follows them, so they do have to take care of it, because if you mess it up as a sixth-grader, guess what? You get the same one back as a seventh-grader. The only times they get new Chromebooks are ninth and sixth (grades),” Megginson-Dicken said.

High schoolers typically earn more access to the internet via the computers, she noted.

“They do have different privileges and access. We try to vertically align it a little bit just since they’re a little bit, hopefully, more mature and they’ve had three years of using the Chromebooks as an instructional tool. So they’re already a little bit more aware,” Megginson-Dicken said.

The young people often ask if their bookmarks are still on their Chromebooks from the previous year, for example, so they’re typically pretty tech savvy, she added.

“I think at first they’re excited and perhaps overwhelmed (to have their Chromebooks to take home during the school year). I think some of them are scared. I had a lot of questions ... asking about like, ‘What happens if I break it?’” Megginson-Dicken said. “But they’ve ... already had access to technology.”

Parents can learn Wednesday more about safeguards in place to protect young people with access to the internet, such as no social media use for sixth- through eighth-graders and no apps or extensions allowed for them, either.

“This is an instructional tool, not just a ‘free card’ (to) do whatever you want,” Megginson-Dicken said.

Some changes have been made for the new school year, she noted.

“A lot of what we’ve put in place this year is in response to the surveys that we’ve sent out. We are listening to what parents and teachers and students ... have to say. And so a lot of this was, ‘Let us be better. Help us be better,’” Megginson-Dicken said. “We can make sure that our kids are using their instructional tools correctly and that they aren’t in danger.”

WiFi is coming to some district buses, among other changes.

“We do have some new ways that parents can be informed as to what their students are doing online on our Chromebooks. That’s called ‘Securely,’” Megginson-Dicken said, and she’ll have more information on that and more tech-related topics Wednesday.

Mahomet resident Donelle Ash, mother of a new sixth-grader, attended the first tech night Aug. 15 and talked to Megginson-Dicken.

“I’m nervous about it because of all the things that kids today can do and what they are able to find, so security in place is a good thing. It gives me a little bit more peace of mind,” said Ash, who also has a fourth-grader. “When they send these (Chromebooks) home and you’re fearful of everything they might be able to do on them — and then to come here and find out they can’t do as much as I think they can — is very (reassuring).

“At home, I do all the safety features I can possibly find, and it’s still not enough,” she said.