BJP Purchases Chromebooks, Exciting Coding Curriculum to Follow

Did you know BJP recently purchased enough Chromebooks to ensure a 1:1 pairing for our students?

The move comes amid BJP's ongoing efforts to navigate the pandemic and provide cutting edge technology to its students.

“When the pandemic first hit last year, we did a lot of research about how online learning might affect our students,” said Assistant Principal Sara Shannon.  Lack of access to technology quickly proved a crucial obstacle.  “We found that 23% of BJP’s students - almost 1 in 4 - couldn’t access the internet via a computer at home.”

That number didn’t even tell the whole story.  Even if a student did have a computer at home, one device wasn’t always enough.  “The entire household got pushed online,” notes Erin O’Neill, one of BJP’s counselors.  “That means parents were working remotely, siblings were also in online school, and other relatives were still using the device for entertainment and normal purposes.”  

That reality was an important consideration for BJP’s administration as they designed their remote learning curriculum, BJP@Home.  “We just couldn’t responsibly ask students to hog their household’s device,” said Fr. Powell.  “To accommodate the needs of our families, we had to cut our schedule roughly in half, which is a shame, because that means that students lost valuable instruction time.  It shows just one important way online learning has been a disservice to Black and Brown students, who often lack access to the necessary technology to make learning at home work.  I never want to be forced into a sacrifice like that again.”

BJP’s administration acted on this data quickly.  “We interceded and did a lot of work to ensure everyone could access online learning.  It was tough because resources were stretched to help so many newly remote students in New York.” recalls Principal Arte, “but that was just a temporary fix, until the end of the school year.”  Remarkably, thanks to temporary devices and online learning tools like Freckle, 94% of BJP students achieved one year of academic growth in both ELA and math, according to BJP's MAP testing.

BJP students use Chromebooks in a variety of ways, from in-class instruction to independent study and homework.
BJP students use Chromebooks in a variety of ways, from in-class instruction to independent study and homework.

By the start of this school year, the percentage of students who could not access the internet via a computer at home had fallen to 14%.  The same issues resurfaced. What’s more, even when students were learning in-person, as was often the case, the prospect of sharing computers or tablets was dangerous.  “We needed to make sure each student had his or her own supplies, and that includes technology,” said Mr. Arte.  “We’ve wanted a 1:1 technology pairing for a long time.  We’ve given a lot of long-term thought to new possibilities for our curriculum that pairing would provide.  COVID just forced our hand.”

This new Chromebook program has given the administration greater flexibility in its COVID planning. Now, students can rest assured knowing they have a device to do their classwork and homework on at home.  It has also given teachers the ability to use new online resources and plan new lessons.  “I'm able to give extra work to students who understand a concept while working on the board with students who need a little extra attention,” said Mr. Braithwaite, S,J,, one of our math teachers.  “Everyone is learning more with this enhancement of our resources.”

Chromebooks have allowed BJP teachers to bring in a variety of guest speakers. Having a device for each student fosters conversation and more direct engagement between students and speakers.​

L: Alumni of Brooklyn Prep discuss 42, the Jackie Robinson biopic, with eighth grade students who watched it as part of a unit on Catholic Social Teaching.
R: Sixth graders meet Paulette Singer Barrett, a survivor of the Holocaust, as part of an English unit called "Why Do We Remember the Past?"

The Chromebooks have also created more significant changes to the curriculum as well.  “Unfortunately, one of the casualties of the pandemic has been our music program,” intoned Mr. Arte.  But in that vacuum has sprouted a new coding course available to all BJP students this spring!  BJP will be partnering with CS Extends, a technology education organization, to offer one course offering this year and an additional three next year.  

“I’m very proud of this new coding curriculum,” said Fr. Powell.  “The pandemic has required a lot of quick thinking and adaptability on the part of our faculty and staff.  Sometimes, it can feel like we can’t think long term, because we’re just trying to think about tomorrow.  Mr. Arte’s team has capitalized on a tremendous opportunity to improve the education of BJP students in the coming years, giving them the skills and knowledge they need to make it in a 21st century economy.”