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Lockers give way to charging stations

Of the 2,000 high school students in Albemarle County Public Schools, only 25 requested lockers last school year
Albemarle County Public Schools removed hundreds of high school lockers and replaced them with benches for students to charge mobile devices.
Albemarle County Public Schools removed hundreds of high school lockers and replaced them with benches for students to charge mobile devices.

One central Virginia high school replaced hundreds of lockers with device charging stations this fall to bolster its 1-to-1 program.

Of the 2,000 high school students in Albemarle County Public Schools, only 25 requested lockers last school year, as more students carry their devices and books in backpacks, says Principal Jay Thomas. The school fully implemented 1-to-1 this fall, and administrators replaced three hallways of lockers with benches, whiteboards and outlets so students could continue collaborating on assignments in the hallways.

Much of curriculum has moved online, and classes are less textbook-based than in the past, Thomas says. Students have carried backpacks and coats to class with them for the past few years, so the lockers are not missed, he adds.

“We decided to get creative and think about how to modernize a building that’s 60 years old to meet the needs of kids today,” Thomas says. “The lockers were just taking up space. Now, our school is more of an open campus.”

With funds from the general budget, the district also outfitted classrooms with power strips and computer charging carts, Thomas says.

Administrators will measure success by observing students and teachers using the spaces. If the stations are occupied often and promoting student engagement, similar renovations may occur countywide in the next three to five years, Thomas says.

An ‘inevitable’ need

About one-third of K12 students nationwide now use school-issued mobile devices, according to a 2014 report by the STEM-focused nonprofit Project Tomorrow. Managing the large numbers of laptops, tablets and phones means ensuring students don’t run of out power.

“It’s inevitable that students will forget to charge their devices at home,” says Javier Baca, CIO of Sunnyside USD in Tucson, Arizona. The urban district of 17,000 students runs a 1-to-1 program for grades 4 through 12. “This is going to become a more frequent need as we see school districts move toward providing mobile computing devices.”

And student devices are not the only tools that need power. The national STEM focus continues to grow, with digital learning tools such as robotics, virtual reality devices and 3D printers all needing to connect to an outlet, says Susan Wells, president-elect of the ISTE Mobile Learning Network.

Retrofitting classroom electrical systems is prohibitively costly for most districts. Instead, Wells recommends deploying charging solutions that are mobile and that are able to work with different devices to prepare for future changes in technology.

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